September 2017 was the first time Zachary and I traveled out of the country together and we headed straight for Italy. We spent two weeks there falling in love with the Piedmont and Tuscan region, drinking too much wine and eating too much cheese (if there is such thing.) That trip is really what got the ball rolling on living our BEST life. We recognized we needed a change of scenery, pace, and lifestyle… which was inevitably what sparked our move to Bellingham, Washington… and as we all know that did not work out.
Anyway, since that first trip in 2017 we have vowed that we want to visit Italia once a year. As a chef, Italy is heaven. It is a place where people celebrate local delicacies (with festivals!!!), cherish the art of “aging”, and have pride in keeping tradition alive. From parmigiano, chocolate, hazelnuts, balsamic vinegar, charcuterie, mushrooms, truffles, wine, pasta, olive oil, Campari, and Aperol… those are the ingredients that make my heart sing and it’s the reason why Italy keeps calling me back and back again.
We started out in eastern Italy and traveled across the country, through the French Alps, up to Lyon and Paris over two weeks time- it was an amazing way to see both countries without having to rent a car.
Our flight from JFK to Venice was easy peasy, with a short layover in Switzerland… everything was going as planned until we reached the boat taxi at the Venice Airport. When I went to check my confirmation email for our first two nights in Venice I discovered I booked and paid for the wrong dates!!!! Talk about really fucking up. Thank goodness we were able to receive a full refund and AirBnB had ample rooms available for our two nights in Venice. Besides that hiccup these were highlights from our 48 hours in The Floating City: picnicking on the canals of Murano, walking through Saint Marks Basilica, getting completely lost in the small pathways and alleyways that make up the city, and drinking venetian wine while watching the sunset with my love.
From Venice, we traveled to one of my favorite cities in the world, Modena. I believe everyone should make a trip to Modena and Bologna in their lifetime- I cannot begin to explain how much I adore this region of Italy. It is the heart and soul of prosciutto di parma, balsamic vinegar, mortadella, bologna, tortellini en brodo, and parmasan cheese. It is a food lovers dream and I swear I lived here in another life. We stayed at the same AirBnB we stayed in the year before, right above Mercato Albinelli- the infamous market in Chefs Table Episode 1 with Massimo Bottura. Some highlights from our time in Emilia-Romana include: reuniting with the best cheese I have ever consumed (gorgonzola dulce), having a 4 course lunch in the heart of Bologna, drinking aperol spritz in one our favorite squares, visiting the market for picnic goodies, and walking the orange and coral streets of Modena.
From Modena, we took the train to Torino (Turin), with a short train layover in Milan. We fell in love with Turin last year, and only had less than 24 hours to spend in this quaint city. It is known as the Paris of Italy- sharing similar architecture+palazzos+ infinite shopping and Michelin restaurants. It is in the heart of Piedmont region- where they take aperitivos very, very seriously. Since it was our last night in Italia, we walked around from bar to bar, sipping on Aperol, eating aperitivo snacks, and talked about how much Italy has influenced us, not only as individuals but as chefs… and how much the Italian lifestyle will be reflected in our future business.
From the Piedmont region, through the French Alps… we found ourselves in Chambery, France. We stayed at Chateau de Candie and to be honest, we felt like absolute royalty. With one night to spare in the Tomme Cheese capital, we stayed on the property of the chateau, feasted on a picnic in the vineyard, dined at their Michelin restaurant, and relaxed in our villa of a hotel room.
Our first night in France was a success and we were ready to make our way towards Lyon. A two hour train ride to Frances third largest city and The capital of French Cuisine. It is the land of Paul Bocuse, Meres de Lyon, Michelin stars, bouchons and boulangeries. Where butter, brioche, and blood sausage seem to be on every menu… along with foie gras, onion soup, tripe, veal, quenelles, coq au vin, poulet, and gratin dauphinois. It is a culinary and gastronomic mecca, and I am so glad we were able to spend three nights here. One night in a quaint airbnb and two nights in a badass hostel… which forever changed my outlook on communal space. Some highlights in Lyon included: a dinner at one of Paul Bocuses’ restaurants, a visit to the museum of confluences, a hike up to the Roman Theater of Fourviere (which has been kicking around since 15 BC) and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere (with the intention of being larger than the infamous Notre Dame in Paris), the botanical gardens in Tete d’Or, and our final dinner at Daniel et Denise.
As much as we loved Lyon, we were pumped to head to Paris for the first time. Another two hour train ride, we found ourselves lost on our walk to our hotel. I lead us 30 minutes in the opposite direction (sorry zachary!!) but we reached our home base and got dressed for the town. We walked down the Champs-Elysees, through the Tuilerie Gardens, to the Louvre, and onto our dinner cruise on the Seine where we got to see the Eiffel Tower light up like a disco ball (thank you thank you thank you daddy-o and Barbara) We woke up the next morning looking forward to our reservations at Pierre Gagnaire, where a French angel gifted us an engagement lunch of a lifetime… I still don’t have enough thank you’s for her generosity! We visited Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, and the Holocaust Memorial. We chased the sunset at the Pompidou (thanks kendall for the rec <3), waited two and half hours to eat at the bar at Frenchie, had the picnic of our dreams at at the Eiffel Tower, and a phenomenal final meal at Chez la Vieille.
It was a trip of a lifetime and the sweetest 25th birthday surprise from my Zachary. Now its time to start planning our honeymooooon!