Did you know Fondus was French?

After a nice siesta at our hotel we walked to Montmartre which was within walking distance of our hotel. Techically anything within around 30 minutes is walking distance we have discovered in France.  It is so different from home, but so good for us. Plus there is always so much to see along the way that the walk is always interesting.

One thing Kalyna said that she wanted to do in France (she just informed me of this in Paris) was to have a Fondu one night. Cheese? Sure, why not! And since there was a recommended Fondu restaurant in the Montmartre area, we were able to combine things from our to do lists.

This area is a unique part of Paris, as it suddenly becomes hilly, like in San Francisco, which you then know that you are headed in the right direction, especially since NOTHING is symetrical in Paris, including the streets.  Sacré-Coeur is up on a hill (that the Parisians call a Mountain???) which overlooks Paris. The view is stunning, and the people watching is a great sport if you have time to sit on the steps.  There are ample guys there selling water, and even Heineken by the bottle while you sit on the steps beneath the Cathedral if you did not come prepared.

(Check back later as I have some great photos to put here, but I can NOTdownload them onto my tablet as someone changed my camera setting from JPEG to NEF, and do not have the bandwidth to change all of my 1000 pics with limited wifi- NOAH……)

The one thing you need to watch out for are the men from Africa- I am unsure of where in Africa, so I apoligize that I generalized; Africa.  There are numerous of these men and they are agressive! They are all holding unfinished string bracelets in their hands and they have no sense of personal space or boundaries, and can make you feel unsafe. They initially approach you and ask you where you are from- ignore them and say No Merci (thank you). They then try to put a bracelet on you- firmly say, No Merci! Walk away, and keep walking past the rest of them that will continue approaching and will keep talking to you. Some tourists just end up giving them money to get them to go away, and that does not help. Some use this as a distraction to pick pocket, but really they are looking for money.  As you walk away annoyed they will say, &Don’t worry, be happy!& Ironic as we were perfectly happy until they harrased us!

We were both starving so we made our way to Le Refuges des Fondus using my Ulmon map app on my phone. What did we ever do without a GPS in our hands at all times???

Refuges des Fondus is a popular restaurant as there were several people waiting outside. I spied that there were baby bottles on each table and after saying, &Why the heck are there baby bottles on the tables, a young group of American women who were going to school in Paris explained that they serve the wine in baby bottles as it is so cramped in the restaurant that this prevents wine spillage. So smart!!! Plus this was a part of the unpretencious charm this restaurant had.  When the owner came to tell us that there was a table ready, there was another couple also waiting, and as the 4 of us were polite we all looked at each other not knowing who should get the table, as we were usure who got there first we ended up sitting together at the same table and even split and shared a beef and cheese fondu. They were in town for an HIV conference- Alex was from London and Alesia was from Italy, but worked as a Physician in the UK.  We had such a lovely dinner with them, and just in case you were wondering what I ate with the cheese fondu- they gave me potatoes!  The meal cost €25 per person, and incuded a glass of Kir, an apertivo plate, 1 type of fondus per couple, 1 baby bottle of red or white wine, and desert, which also was gluten free- a home made marshmallow with a caremel sauce drizzled on it. OMG! YUM!

The next best part of eating at Le Refuges is the experience. It is family seating- against the wall is a bench, and in order to get in and out unless you are at the end of the bench is to climb over your table. It is definetely close seating, so you get to know your neighbors, which I loved!

Before walking home, I needed to take Kalyna to see Moulin Rouge and its famous red windmill. Funny that this was my 3rd time to Paris, and I also had not seen this iconi Parisian landmark. Moulin Rouge use d to be a hip place to go in Paris, but as we walked towards the windmill, it started to feel more and more seedy. We both said we saw Moulin Rouge and quickly left as the &good time& that we could have found there was not &our kind of good time& if you know  what I mean.

Instead of walking home through this crazy neighbourhood, we took the nearest Metro, and that is where we had a @subwaycreatures experience! I follow @subwaycreatures on Instagram (follow me t_tymko) and get easily amused, disgusted and totally grossed out at what happens in the subway in New York.  We were quietly sitting at a seat waiting for our train, when a homeless? man, who either had mental issues or was totally drunk, approached me and proceeded to point his finger at me and said,  &T’es moche! Dégolasse! Molle!& He also said a lot more, but he was talking fast and it was slurred, but this was the general idea of what he said to me, as he was actually pointing at my right leg, which had some scratches on it.  I had no idea what he said, and I just said back, &Je parle en englais- I speak english& He repeated himself, and I said the same thing back. He looked at me confused then luckily the train arrived and we quickly walked a couple of cars away from where he was to get away from him.  Kalyna then told me what she thought he said to me- &I was disgusting, stupid and gross (dégolas) At first Kalyna thought moche was mushy, and apparantly he didn’t like my calves.  We didn’t know if we should laugh as we were just very confused. I did howerever text my Subway Creature friend- LIndsey to tell her about my encounter, then as we were walking out of the Metro, we saw a Dispicable Me poster with the Minions on it, where is said, &Moi, Moche et Méchant  2& So was I also Dispicable since he called me Moche? We laughed at the coincidence!

Our first full day in Paris was full and Great!

First full day in Paris- Hotels, Eiffel Tower, Peti Cabs, and Galeries Lafayette

Paris Day 2

Today was our 1st of 2 full days in Paris and even though we went to bed at a decent time, my body refused to figure out that I need a good nights sleep. Instead it was in nap mode, and I kept waking up thinking I was done my nap multiple times. Still groggy, we started our morning at 9am with breakfast, which was included with our room at Hotel 34B, Astotel Paris

Choosing hotels is not an easy feat with all of the choices that are available to us on the internet, and if you are the one in charge of choosing a room/ hotel/ B&B, etc and it isn’t great all fingers are pointed at you! So, no pressure. This said, we Loved Hotel 34B! It was escentric, whimsical (check out the decor in my photos) and all the services and ammenities included were great! While walking in the hallways, we felt as though we were on location of the movie, &The Shining&, waiting at any minute for Jack Torrance to jump out and say in his creepy/ crazy voice, &Here’s Johnny!& Creepy yet yet funny at the same time! They had an complimentary snack bar including soft drinks, water, coffee and juice just off the lobby open till 2am. As well as in our room we had a mini bar stocked with the same drinks- complimentary as well. The Wifi was great, and the beds were comfortable! It was in a central location (9th Arondisment) with a Metro stop (Grands Boulevards) very close. The Opera House and Galeries Lafayette were also very close to walk to with ample choices for upscale shopping.  

One of the things Iike about Europe, is taking the Metro in the big cities. I don’t know why, but it feels like a part of the adventure. Luckily having Kalyna with me, she was able to be the navigator as my eyes were still pretty blurry and interpreting the signs and metro map was a challenge for my eyes. A smile was put on my face when a man playing the accordian came aboard our car and gave us the full Parisian experience.

We arrived at Trocadéro, the station closest to the best visual introduction to the Tours Eiffel- Eiffel Tower. After taking multiple pictures of us and for other tourists, we walked towards this Grand Monument! It became quite real very quickly that many security measures had to be taken as a result of the terrorist activity in this city. We waited in line for over 30 minutes in a somewhat short line to be checked and cleared to enter the general area under the Eiffel Tower.  We then waited in a much longer line for over 1 hour to buy a ticket to be able to walk up the stairs of the tower- I did not remember having to pay to walk up last time, and there most definetely was not a long wait to walk up, or my tired 3 children and husband would not have followed me to the staircase back in 2012.  

After buying our tickets, and clearing another security check point, we make the trek up. The weather was cool and starting to rain but once we got to the 1st platform to admire the 360⚬view, it felt worth the wait.  We then waited in another cattle corraling line up to take the elevator to the top. It was now officially raining, and of course we didn’t have an umbrella or rain coats, but Ihad an Italian scarf for my head and Kalyna had a light jacket on.

1 necessary thing to do in Paris was checked off our list! Next stop was the Champs Elysée and L’Arc de Triomphe.  I am able to do things that I wouldn’t do when Iam not travelling with my husband, Kim. How do I say this in a nice way, expept that Imiss out on opportunities to experience something different due to not wanting to spend a bit of money or cheaping out. Since it is just me and Kalyna I can decide when to make a splurge, and when we saw some fun petticabs on the street, we jumped into one. That said, we handpicked one that was a bit fancier than the rest and even had speakers for music. This next part is where you will also see an experpt in Scams and Scammers. These &guys& have creative marketing. They are quick to show you a flyer with a list of all the places they will take you with the price next to it.  Their goal is for you to decide quickly and get you to your destination, so that when you hand them the €15 the flyer showed, the driver then informs you that was Per Person, so in reality it was €30. We noticed the same &discussion& from many other passengers wherever we saw the petticabs.

The quick grab and go options for food are an issue for me with my Gluten intollerance, so to keep the Hangries away from Kalyna we grabbed a typical french baquette with cheese for her and an espresso for me as we wanted to avoid the typical tourist trap restaurants along the Champs Elysée plus it was crazy busy from the Tours de France just ending the day prior.

Another great part to staying at the hotel chain we did, was we could visit any Astotel property and use their wifi, restrooms and even have their snacks and beverages. I picked up a fresh nicoise salad from a Patisserie and we relaxed for a bit at 123 Champs Elysées before heading to Gallerie Lafayettes.

Gallerie Lafayettes- where to begin with this shopping experience? It is a Beautiful building in itself, then you add in every designer name brand spread out over its 10 floors. We stopped at 5, and had no idea it had 10 floors until I googled this fact…. To be honest, we stopped at 5 because of  the crazy crowds of bus loads, and more bus loads and even more bus loads of Asian tourists, with no sense of personal space or manners. It was just too overwhelming for us.

It was time for a siesta at our hotel…. Then more venturing…..

I saw DEAD People in Palermo! And so much more!

Dead people? YES we did see them, but first we eat and drink café!

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After a busy first day in Sicily, and even though we were exhausted by the time we returned to our room the night before, we still stayed up until almost 2am, so when I awoke after 8am, I felt refreshed, and HUNGRY! We were very happy when we entered the breakfast room to see a spread of Amazing food all set out for us at our own table! The day before, when we checked in,  I had told Rosario that I was “Celiaca” and ate “Senza Glutine”. I could see that he understood, and was MORE than accommodating, as the selection for me to eat was above and beyond my expectations! 20160917_020252In addition to the regular pastries, meat and cheeses, he had gluten free cookies, rice cakes, 2 kinds of GF crackers, and a soy drink that also was labeled as gluten free!

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On our agenda for the day were 2 important things plus a couple bonuses: Visit the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, the Cattedrale, revisit Quattro Canti, and the fountains from the night before before we pick up our bags then pick up our rental car at 4pm.

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Our needs are quite simple, but I must say that we are very easily distracted by some shops we were looking forward to seeing in Italy! We did take at least 1 quick pit stop to shop, AND a stop for café and an Affogato, after which we continued to get our sight seeing done.

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From the small amount we had seen so far, we didn’t feel that Sicily was much different from other places we had been in Italy, but then we came across the Cattedrale. It was different from other churches we had seen, including the lofty palm trees. The Normans started to build it in 1185, and also has Gothic, and medieval influences. It is said to be a pantheon for the Normans, and has 6 royal tombs inside the church, a museum, and crypts in the basement.  We paid the full admission price to be able to also climb the stairs to the roof, so that we could experience the breathtaking 360° views.

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The inside of the church was was beautiful and different from any other church we had seen in Italy before- evidence that Sicily absolutely is more of a melting pot of ethnicity than the rest of Italy.

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Cattedrale: √  Now to go and see dead people!

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We used our app City Maps2Go to supplement the signs that we periodically found to direct us to the Catacombes.

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You may be shocked to hear that once again we were distracted! This time by Yummy food!

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One of the Sicilian ‘street foods’ that I was wanting to try were Aracini balls, and as we passed by this nice looking Café with some yummy looking deserts, we went in to see if they had anything gluten free. Just my luck their Arancini balls filled with ragu were senza glutine! YUM! I was hooked! For those of you that do not know what Arancini is, they are rice balls that are filled with a variety of fillings, including cheese, ragu, meat and peas, etc, then deep fried. Another ‘food’ that is from Sicily are granitas, a semi frozen desert made from ice, water, and a variety of flavours, somewhat similar to sorbet, but better because it is Italian….. We each bought one to go, and continued on our way to find the Catacombes.

dsc_0225The Cappucin Catacombs, is the place where the living meet the dead! Not kidding!

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The pictures shown were found on Google Images! I DID NOT take them, as they were very specific about NOT taking any pictures or video once inside. That said, I was very annoyed to see others sneaking pictures.  I am a bit of a rule breaker, but when it comes to showing respect for other cultures, I try my best to observe and follow the rules. Yes, Mom, I would make you proud in this instance!

We paid the admission fee and went down the flights of stairs, and instantly you were in a place very unique and eery. There were rows, and rows, and rooms, and corridors of corpses in wooden caskets, display boxes, but mostly they were hanging! Yes, hanging! Some were all bones, and others you could still see some features! I swear that one was watching me! They were all fully clothed.

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There are several corridors dedicated to specific people including for whom this all began for, the Friars. Also were corridors for priests,  women,  families, and professionals including lawyers, surgeons, etc and a chapel for children.  The last body was that of a 2 year old girl named Rosalia Lombardo, who died in 1920. Her body is remarkably still intact as her body lays in a small casket, which is roped off and displayed on her own.  So, yes we did see dead people in Palermo!

Before we left for Italy, I found very little from Rick Steves on Sicily, but the one thing I did find  was of him visiting Palermo and the Cappucin Catacombes. If you want to see more, please watch his YouTube video.

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On we went to see the other things on our list including Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena. The octagonal square is the crossing of 2 main streets in Palermo, Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

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The four corners each have a baroque building, each with almost an identical facade, but each has a fountain and a statue to represent each of the 4 seasons, the 4 Spanish Kings, and of the patronesses of Palermo. As this is not a traditional Piazza, to which is pedestrian only, if you are not paying attention to where you are, or know of any history of Palermo, you can walk or drive past this square without realizing where you are.

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Our final stop before collecting our rental car was  Fontana Pretoria, the large fountain that we briefly saw the night before.  The magnificent Fontana Pretoria is a work of art done by the Florentine sculptor Francesco Camilliani in 1554. One of the things that I love about Italy are the fountains. It is astonishing to me how 100’s of years ago with none of the technology we have today that they were able to build such beautiful fountains, all with unique statues.

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This square was once known as the “square of shame” because of the naked statues around the fountain. It is located next to Palermo’s Municipal building, which is in the heart of the historic center.

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The Piazza Pretoria, which was not shameless at all, was a wonderful place to end our quick 24 hours in Palermo.  I look forward to visiting Palermo again, and exploring the many beautiful sights!

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Bellas in Sicilia- Palermo in 24 hours

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It has been 4 long years  and I am back in Italy!  We have 7 days to explore 1/2 of Sicily, and we are starting in Palermo, Sicily’s capital.  From the airport we take a bus to the downtown bus station, and walk to our B&B. Kathy used this Amazing app that I had never heard about and am fascinated by it! It is called CityMaps2Go by Ulmon In advance of going somewhere, for example Palermo, you download the city map and when you are there it uses GPS- NO Data to help you to get to where you want to go. It was most useful when walking as there are no voice directions, which is needed when driving.  It is crazy how it works, and I honestly don’t understand it, but it works great!

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Our first accomodations are at a B&B called Liberty Teatro Santa Cecilia. It is run by a lovely man named Rosario. He happily greeted us and showed us our room. It is lovely!  It has no view, and we had a private bathroom, but it was down the hall. That said, the breakfast in the morning was AMAZING! I will tell you more about it later….

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We hit the ground running as we knew we only had 24 hours to explore this large city and it is already late afternoon.  We discovered immediately that there was a sense of community here. Every Piazza we came across there were locals gathered, and children playing.

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Soon it was time for Aperol Spritz! We decided to stop at a spot where a lot of locals were gathered and fresh seafood was being grilled. OMG, it was AMAZING! I had some fresh octopus, that had been boiled, then grilled and seasoned with olive oil, salt, chilis and lime. So simple, yet SO GOOD!dsc_0045 dsc_0043

dsc_0048I honestly had not done a tonne of research on Palermo before we left, and what I had read was not terribly positive, so I was not expecting much.  That said, we soon discovered that 24 hours would not be enough to explore this intriguing city. I honestly had ndsc_0057othing bad to say about anything that we saw and experienced in Palermo! The food was All yummy, and CHEAP, which once we had finished our trip we realized. The first night we ate at an Osteria called Pane e Alivi, and it was a wonderful start to our Italian adventure. I had a seafood risotto, which had mussels, clams, octopus, and sword fish, Kathy had a swordfish dish, we shared a liter of the house red wine (which the waiter didn’t think I should be ordering this much; silly boy), a caprese salad to start, and we finished off with desert- Kathy a canoli, and I had a dish of the canoli filling. The bill was only €31 total!

dsc_0065As we only had 24 hours we decided to stay up as late as we could and walk as much as our feet would allow us.  As we walked through different neighborhoods, we discovered that there was a celebration happening. We were unsure of what it was, but there were many decorations, including beautiful lights everywhere.  After seeing a couple of posters, and researching once I got home I found out what Festeggiamenti in onore di Maria SS. die sette Delori was.  It was a liturgical feast for Maria Addolorata Lady of Sorrows and is a celebration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the cult of the seven sorrows of Mary.

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Everywhere we turned we came across something of interest, and not by coincidence, and a lot of what we had read about, we stumbled upon. First was the Quattro Canti, which is the historical center of Palermo, and where 2 principal streets intersect, Via Maqueda and Corso VittorioEmanuele, which we actually did not realize at first as we were distracted by the rickshaw looking vehicles.  As we kept on walking, now starting to feel tired, we then stumbled upon a large fountain in another square. We didn’t know where we were, and after looking at our watches, we realized it was almost 11:30pm and we had been up for over 40 hours! Too tired to find out what we were looking at meant, we needed to get some sleep and start fresh in the morning! Buona Notte Bellas! dsc_0076

 

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My “New Skin” in the Heart of Firenze!

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It is amazing how Karma works, and you would not believe it until you are not only a witness to its wonders, but can actually touch it when it comes full circle.

On September 24, 2016 my Karma came full circle in the heart of Firenze in a store; Benheart! It has been just over 5 years since I had my bad experience in Florence when buying a leather jacket from a store at the San Lorenzo market and I am now the owner of my “new skin”, the most beautiful leather jacket courtesy of Benheart!

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Only 11 days prior to my Sicily, Florence trip, I received an email from Tommaso Barletta,  a manager for BENHEART, an Italian Brand which designs, produces and sells Leather clothing and accessories, all artisanally hand-made Made in Florence. He wanted to share the story of Benheart, including of the story of Ben, stylist, and owner of Benheart. They were intrigued by my story and wanted to be able to collaborate in some way as my blog has been well received not only in Florence but around the world.  After checking out their website and social media, we set a date to meet when I was going to be in Florence. This day literally changed my life!

It was our first morning in Firenze, and the skies were blue and the air was crisp. In anticipation of re-discovering Florence, and my meeting at Benheart, I was too excited to sleep in our beautiful apartment overlooking the Piazza Della Republica. The walk along the river was wonderful and exciting, as I kept recognizing places from shots from Benheart’s Instagram posts. A turn at Piazza Carlo Goldoni, then a slight right onto Via Della Vigna Nuova, and we immediately saw BENHEART.

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We were greeted by Tommaso, and the store manager, the beautiful Letizia. I was immediately blown away by the store- the fragrance of fresh, quality leather was intoxicating, and the variety of colors of jackets, shoes, bags and belts were beautifully and artistically displayed.  I immediately wanted to start touching everything, which can be taboo in many places in Italy, however I was encouraged to explore which I did with a Huge smile on my face!

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Trying on my new shoes!

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It is important to the ‘family’ of Benheart to educate those that walk in the doors about their leather, and the quality and uniqueness of their goods. You are not just buying a leather jacket; you are buying a second skin. Their shoes are also just as unique- hand sewn, and garment died, and OH SO Comfortable! Please watch this video as Tommaso explains more about their shoes.

 

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When I say family of Benheart, I use this word as a verb, as the actions of all that I met acted extremely proud to be a part of this special family. It was quite moving to witness. A great example was when Ben arrived at the store;  You could see the love and affection and respect that they have for each other.  Ben is a dynamic personality and one of passion and purpose and wears an aura of love that is inspiring.

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Meeting Ben

As I was already pawing at the many jackets, but urged to wait for Ben to introduce the jackets to me and size me, he quickly got me in one of his creations. I was immediately struck by the comfort and workmanship. There was NO way that this was going to wrip, tear or do anything that a San Lorenzo market jacket will do. It literally felt like a second skin!

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The unique placement of his Benheart zippers are fashionable and flattering. I also appreciated his use of different textures on each jacket- again keeping each piece unique in design.

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This is THE ONE!

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Once my craving was filled to try on and pick out a leather jacket, Ben and I had a conversation about his touching story, and why he and friend Matteo created Benheart.

Ben is the mind of our company, and his story is totally unique. Muslim and of Moroccan origin, Ben came to Italy when he was seven years old, and worked in the leather business, in Scandicci, the epicenter of leather in Italy for many famous brands including Gucci, Prada, and Ferragamo to name a few.  His developed a love of working with leather over the more than 12 years that he was then designing jackets and purses. One day, during a soccer match, he suffered a massive heart attack and went into coma. After 7 months in the hospital, his life was saved thanks to the donation of the Christian heart of a young man. When Ben recovered, he decided to start his own dream, together with the friend of a lifetime, Matteo, and founded Benheart – which literally means “Son of the Heart”.

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The selection of Made in Italy belt buckles

Everything is singularly, hand made in Scandicci, through the hands of experienced Italian artisans, according to traditional methods, handed down over generations.  All of Benheart’s creations (that is really what they are) and all raw materials, leather and accessories, are 100% Made In Italy. Their creations are sewn by hand and specially garment-dyed in traditional tanneries, so every product becomes one-of-a-kind. Everything we sell comes Certified and with a Lifetime Guarantee.

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Ben sharing his story

Our conversation flowed with ease, and even with the successes that Ben has created in the 4 years since starting Benheart he was humble. If anything he was excited to get a jacket on me and share with me his story, which he did.  As I listened I looked over at Letizia and I could see the emotion on her face as well. She had heard his story 100’s of times, but as she said you can not help but be moved no matter how many times you hear Ben share it. Another sign of the love and respect they have for each other.  You see, Letizia used to be a customer of Benheart, and her love of not just their creations, but their story she then became a part of the Benheart family; Brilliant!

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Then a bombshell was unexpectedly dropped on me. The Beautiful, Unique and one of a kind red jacket that I could not keep touching as I was wearing it, just as a pregnant woman can not keep from touching her baby filled belly,  was gifted to me. As Ben was telling me that he would like to give me this creation, I had tears in my eyes, as well as Kathy. We had come full circle together.  I was in total and complete shock to think that one moment I was going to be making an investment, then the next it was being stamped with my initials, and handed to me with love! As I write this article, I am still in disbelief that my beautiful red leather, 100% Made in Italy jacket is mine! But it is!!!dsc_0381Then what is a girl to do? Keep shopping! I was already eyeing the custom belts, and had picked out a pair of shoes, which I happily bought. My shoes were of course a compliment to my new skin, and my belt was fit to my waist for size, the buckle was classic and perfect for my, and then it was stamped with my initals.

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The work bench at Benheart where creations are made!

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Letizia fitting me for my custom belt

The saying, time flies when you are having is fun rang true, as we looked at our watches and we discovered we had been at Benheart for 3 hours!  During those 3 hours, the store was buzzing with old customers, and of course new ones also. It was wonderful to feel that I was now a part of this wonderful community! Everyone we spoke with was genuine and of course happy with their Benheart creations.

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My new friends- Ben, Letizia and Tommaso at Benheart

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Grazie Mille Letizia!

What I have take away from the hours spent at BENHEART is something that I knew in my heart when I started my blog almost 6 years ago, to share my story and experience with buying leather in Florence; there is so much good in the world and specifically in Florence.  I made sure to say to buy leather in Florence, but to be aware of what you are buying.  I am happy and honoured to have met Ben, Tommaso and Letizia with Benheart, and just as I spread the bad news, I will spread the good news, which is called BENHEART!

One day I hope to celebrate your store opening in Canada- a goal that Ben shared with me!

Should your travels take you to Firenze, Roma, Milano, Verona, or San Francisco (store opening soon), make sure you stop by Benheart! You will be happy you did!

The World’s Best Pizza is in Naples!!!! And my bonus- some shopping!

I am a bit out of order for my posts, but I have had Naples on my brain this week, and I must first do some sharing about our trip to Naples, then I can go back to the order of our trip. I must also say how thankful I am that I blogged a good portion of our trip while we were still traveling. I have found that since we got home, that my “normal” life gets priority to my travel blogging…  But Today, I MUST write about Naples!

The first impression of Naples from the train station.

How and why we went to Naples for part of a day: We as a family decided when planning our trip, that we all wanted to visit Pompeii as a day trip from Rome. The high speed train took us from Roma to Napoli, then to Pompeii, and for the return I booked our train tickets so that we had 4+ hours in Naples for 1 reason- PIZZA!

Is pizza all the same in Italy? NO!!!!! Just like eating pizza at home from places like (YUK) Pizza Hut, Dominos, or even at a nice Italian restaurant, they will all be different in size, shape, and taste.  BUT, the one thing that I love about eating pizza in Italy is that you are in Italy, eating ‘real’ pizza. So when being so close to the birth place of pizza and not go to one of two restaurants that have been making pizza for decades, we had to make it work to stay for just long enough to experience the real thing. And as I write this, my mouth is watering thinking about THAT PIZZA! OH MY!!!

MY GOAL: To eat pizza at the following original Pizzerias!

From the book, Eat, Pray, Love. Serves only Marinara and Margherita pizza.

The other Pizzeria, Trianon- across the street from da Michele.

At the train station we found the TI to get precise directions for how to walk to both of the original Pizzerias- Pizzeria da Michele, and Pizzeria Trianon. What I did not realize was that da Michele had become widely popular to even more tourists since the book and movie, Eat, Pray, Love because this is where Elizabeth Gilbert went to eat pizza for the day. How I did not clue into this is beyond me, because I have read the book twice, and have also seen the movie. We were warned that it might be very busy, so on the way as I held my purse as close to my body as I could we discussed our plan of attack on these restaurants. Our plan was that we would eat first at the restaurant with the shortest line, then we would go to the next one after.  But one other deciding factor that ultimately helped us to decide where to eat first was that Trianon had air conditioning, which was welcomed by us all after a day in the sweltering heat at Pompeii.  Luckily Trianon had no line up, and da Michele did, and it was not even open yet.

Instead of explaining our choices of Pizza, here is a picture of the menu. Could there be a wrong choice? NO!

Oh my! Instead of each of us choosing our own pizza, the kids each chose one, and Kim and I decided to share so that we could save some room for more pizza across the street at da Michele.  After we ordered and were taking in the simple yet, thankfully cool atmosphere, I went over to the also simple pizza kitchen to take some pictures. What I was not expecting was being welcomed into the kitchen to not only take pictures but really be a part of our pizzas being made and cooked.  Follow the pictures to see the simple process from dough ball, to table process.

Dough balls being shaped.

Adding the toppings.

Posing for the camera

Time to go in the Pizza Oven

Each person has their own job. His is the kitchen greeter (at least to me) and to cook the pizzas.

Our pizzas cooking in the VERY HOT oven.

After only approximately 2 minutes, our pizzas were cooked!

Our Naples Pizza! YUM!

The pizza Kim and I shared. They were all HUGE! And they were better than we imagined they would be! The kids each had their own- our little piggies…

AHHHH…. Is how we all felt after finishing our cold beer, Fanta (Noah), and our Amazing Pizza. BUT, could we find any room in our stomachs for more pizza at da Michele?! Unfortunately no. We were stuffed! Plus, this is what it looked like outside of da Michele.

Da Michele was now open, and the crowds were getting bigger.

So off we went back on our journey back to the train station. Why I call it a journey is because,  Naples is hmmm, how do I describe it but a little crazy. On our way to find our pizzerias, we were stopped by someone on the street selling Ipads (most likely stolen), we saw many, many people selling knock off items like bags, watches, jewellery, etc on the street, and guys trying to make money washing windows for the cars stopped at red lights. The traffic was crazy, there was a tonne of graffiti and vandalism, and you could see the poverty everywhere. Naples was very different from any other Italian city I have been to, and not a place that was telling me to stay for more than just a pizza.

Unsolicited car window washers on the streets of Naples

Streets of Naples

I must tell you that we received many warnings from Italians about going to Naples. We were told to not wear any jewellery, including watches, there are pick pockets everywhere, and to be careful in general.  Filipo told us that many people, including motorists get their watches stolen when stopped at red lights. Whether the watch is on your left wrist, and your arm is resting on the side window, rolled down, it can be stolen. Or for those that have clued into this, and wear their watch on their right wrist, the thieves then burn the left arm resting on the window sill with a cigarette, and when you go to swap the hurt, they steal the watch from your right wrist while swapping what is hurting you. Crazy!   So, as Jordan bought a watch from a man on the street selling a variety of watches, we thought of Filipo’s stories of watches being stolen…  We were nervously cautious as we walked to and from the train station. We walked with intention when crossing the streets like we were told to, and we made it back to the train station, so that I could do some shopping. Yes, you heard me correct! They had some great stores that I had been waiting to find in Rome, and hadn’t yet, so with the extra time budgeted for the 2nd pizzeria, I did some greatly anticipated shopping. And once again I found myself saying AHHHHH!!!!!