Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento was the first stop on our trip, and ultimately, it ended up being our favorite city!  There’s something to be said for the magical beauty of mountains/cliffs set against a body of water.  So picturesque!  It was also a great home base for exploring the Amalfi Coast.  The train and bus systems are super easy to navigate – one of the main reasons we were able to take three day trips during our time here.

On our first day, we checked in, showered, ate, and then set out to walk the streets of Sorrento.  It was fun finding random side streets to explore.  We also spent a great deal of time looking out at the water and marveling at the fact that we were finally here.

Sorrento 1
WHERE WE STAYED

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Royal and loved it!  The concierge was friendly and did everything possible to make sure we were comfortable during our stay.  Our room was clean and huge (for European standards).  It kind of felt like we were staying at a bed and breakfast.  Very cozy!  The location was perfect too – walking distance to everything!  A breakfast buffet was also included in our stay.  The spread included all kinds of things, including pastries, toast, eggs, different meats and cheeses, juices, coffee, etc.  A great way to start our day!

WHAT WE DID

Pompeii and Vesuvius – We took the train to the Pompeii ruins and then did a “tour” of Mt. Vesuvius.  Most people said Pompeii took them 2-3 hours to walk through…well, it took us almost four!  The ruins are incredible and sad at the same time.  You can almost feel what the residents of Pompeii must have felt on that fateful day.

Pompeii
The tour of Mt. Vesuvius was also very memorable.  We took a bus up to a certain point and had the option to hike to the crater.  We hiked!  And it was so worth it.  The views from the top of Vesuvius are breathtaking.  I could have spent all day up there!

Mt. Vesuvius
Capri – We took a ferry to Capri but had no real plan after that.  Immediately upon walking off the port, we saw a sign for a two hour boat tour of the island. The tour included a stop at the Blue Grotto as well.  We decided to get on the next boat and take it from there.  You guys!  It was amazing.  Capri is a beautiful, majestic island, and we got to see it from all sides.

When the Blue Grotto stop came up, Vishnu and I made a quick last minute decision to hop into a smaller boat and just go for it.  Again, totally worth it!  Our guide told us that the sand at the bottom is white, and when the sunlight streams in, the water appears to be this amazing electric blue color.  He also told us to dip our hands in the water for good luck!

Capri_Blue Grotto
After our boat tour, we grabbed some lunch and then set off for a hike to Arco Naturale, a natural arch dating back from the Paleolithic Age.  We were told the hike would take 30-45 minutes.  No one told us about the stairs.  It was a crazy 45 minutes, but we finally made it.  Vishnu and I were speechless.  The view of the arch and the water and the clear blue sky was unforgettable.  The sheer beauty of it all made me tear up a bit!

Capri_Arco Naturale
Unfortunately, that one hike was all we had time for.  The last ferry back to Sorrento left around 6 pm, and we were cutting it close.

Amalfi Coast – We rode the SITA bus to both Positano and Amalfi on our last full day in Sorrento.  Every article, review, and blog post I read said that the bus ride is scary and not for people with weak stomachs.  I thought it was perfectly fine.  Maybe it’s because we’ve rode through much steeper cliffs with much crazier drivers in India!  Anyway, if you decide to go the SITA bus route, definitely sit on the right side of the bus for the best views!

Our first stop was Positano.  We got off at what I think was the city center and then walked down to Spiaggia Beach.  Finally the Mediterranean Sea, and it was stunning!  The most bluest of blues.  I wish we could have swam in it…next time!

We (more like I) then decided on a lunch place that was at the very top of the cliffs closer to the next town over.  I totally didn’t think about how crazy of a hike it would be to get there, but it was.  It took us a sweaty 1.5 hours.  But looking on the bright side, we really got to see Positano (that’s what I kept telling Vishnu anyway!).

Positano
After lunch, we walked down to the SITA bus station and rode to Amalfi.  By the time we got there, I was exhausted…like couldn’t keep my eyes open.  So instead of getting off and walking around, we just enjoyed the views from the comfort of our seats.  I know, I know.  But my legs/feet were absolutely killing me by this point!

I will say that from all the different places we went, Positano ended up being our favorite overall.  The colorful cliff side homes facing the blue sea, our adventurous hike up the cliff, and the amazing lunch we experienced just couldn’t be topped!

WHERE WE ATE (that was notable)

Pizzeria Da Franco (Sorrento) – Great casual pizza place near the train station.  We ended up going here twice.  The crust is thin, chewy, and perfectly charred from the wood fire oven.  Really good distribution of toppings too.  And the red sauce is finger licking good!

Sorrento_Da Francos
Aurora Light (Sorrento) – This restaurant is located in the main square and claims to provide lighter/healthier Italian food.  I don’t know if it was healthier, but it was quite good.  Vishnu ordered the cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and I went with the tagliatelle and mushrooms.  I thought both dishes were executed really well (especially mine), but Vishnu thought it could have been a little better.

Sorrento_Aurora Light
Gelateria Davide il Gelato (Sorrento) – This was our first taste of gelato in Italy, and it was good!  To be honest, the Snickers gelato cake Vishnu got stole the show, but my cup of chocolate and hazelnut gelato did the trick as well!  It wasn’t the best we had but it definitely wasn’t the worst.

Le Relais (Grand Hotel Royal, Sorrento) – This was our complimentary meal at the hotel, and it was delicious!  We each got appetizers, a primi course, a secondi course, dessert, and a bottle of wine.  The standout items of the night were the eggplant parmesan (it was tender and buttery) and the molten lava cake (the best we’ve ever had).

Sorrento_Le Relais
Buonocore Gelato (Capri) – BEST gelato in Italy…hands down!  We stopped here after our Arco Naturale hike because so many people were crowded around the gelato counter.  And I’m so glad we did.  Not only is the gelato (me) and sherbet (Vishnu) perfection, but they make the waffle cones in front of you.  In fact, my cone was still a tiny bit warm!  So fresh.  I got a huge scoop of the Fantesie (sp?) di Capri flavor and it was heaven on a cone.  Buonocore set the gelato bar really high…for life!

Capri_Buonocore Gelato
Osteria del Buonconvento (Sorrento) – This restaurant was a short walk from our hotel but not quite in the middle of everything.  For some reason, that made me feel like we were getting a more authentic experience.  And yes, while the food was delicious, the music they played in the main dining room was obnoxious!  Imagine this – beautiful restaurant, Italian food/wine, and Lady Gaga blaring from the speakers.  It was strange.  But music aside, Vishnu’s mushroom ravioli was spectacular – the pasta and the sauce really came together so well.  I kept sneaking bites to the point where he asked if I just wanted to switch plates!

Sorrento 2
La Tagliata (Positano) – This is the restaurant we hiked 1.5 hours for!  The first thing we learned upon sitting down is that there is no menu.  You eat what mama makes.  For us, this included a number of appetizers (beans, pickled vegetables, and eggplant parm), a primi course (made from scratch pastas), a secondi course (grilled meats for Vishnu, pieces of grilled cheese for me, and a salad to share), and dessert.  You guys, we were stuffed, and we didn’t even eat everything.  I really felt like we were at our Italian friend’s house for lunch.  And the views?  AMAZING!  This was such a unique experience, and I’m so glad we didn’t give up and eat somewhere else.

Positano_La Tagliata
Well, that pretty much sums up our stay in Sorrento!  Next up…Rome!

If you had to pick you absolute favorite place in the world, what would you say it is?

Italy – An Overview + A Few Tips

The last two weeks went by in a flash! A big, fun, once-in-a-lifetime kind of flash. That’s how I like to describe our time in Italy. And whenever I do, Vishnu likes to stop and remind me that we have lots more vacations to take in our lifetime. I know that, but still…this trip was something I’ve been looking forward to for years. Even before I met Vishnu. Visiting Italy has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and not only did I get to do just that, but I got to do it with my best friend!

Italy - Positano

As you can tell from the title of this post, I’m going to share more of an overview today along with a few tips and tricks we picked up along the way. I’ll share more detailed posts about Sorrento, Rome, and Florence next week – where we stayed, what we did, where we ate, etc.

Let’s get started…

First and foremost, some people wanted to know how I fit 12 days worth of clothes in a carry-on suitcase. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to squeeze everything in with a little room to spare. I brought three pairs of leggings, two pairs of jeans, a number of tees, two more formal tops, tennis shoes, sandals, two pairs of Toms, a straightner, and toiletries. My first tip is to roll versus fold. And my second tip comes in the form of a jacket. Because I had a good jacket with me, I didn’t need to bring extra sweaters and long sleeved tops.

My real reason for packing light? We had two different connecting flights before reaching our final destination, and I didn’t want my bag to get lost! That would’ve been the worst. And I also didn’t want to be that person dragging her huge suitcase around Italy (all of our hotels were close to train stations, so we never took a cab!).

Italy - suitcase

Speaking of travel, this was the first trip where we covered all major modes of transportation. We obviously travelled by plane and train, but we also rode on a couple of buses and boats as well. I’ll get into the specifics in next week’s posts, but I have to mention Alitalia. This was our first time flying with this airline, and we had a good experience. The food was tasty, the seats were comfortable, and everything was on time. The only thing that could’ve been better was the customer service. The flight attendants hardly smiled and seemed super annoyed at all times. Regardless, I would fly Alitalia again.

Alitalia 
That brings me to the weather. You guys! It was P-E-R-F-E-C-T! We could not have asked for better weather. It only rained (more like drizzled) one day for a couple of hours. Other than that, all we got was sunshine. And the temperature was in the 50s, 60s, and 70s on most days. Perfect I tell you!

And perfect weather meant lots and lots and lots of walking! Our Fitbits told us that on average we walked about 10 miles a day. And I’m not talking about walking on flat roads. While we did casually stroll about here and there, we also climbed stairs (so many stairs!) and hiked and walked hills. My legs are still tired!

Italy - Cinque Terre hiking 
In my mind all that activity meant one thing – FOOD! And boy did we eat! We ate pizza, pasta, caprese salads, gelato, Italian pastries, etc. So much delicious food. I was in heaven. Overall, if I had to choose, I would say Florence has the best food and wine. Our top two meals happened to be in Florence. That’s not to say Rome and Sorrento were disappointing in any way, but the cuisine in Florence just felt a bit more unique…more on that later!

Italy_Positano_La Tagliata 
Next…the people! The people of Italy are so friendly and welcoming. I’d heard mixed things from friends and colleagues and wasn’t sure what to expect. But every person we encountered (except for the flight attendants) greeted us with a smile and was always willing to help. It may have helped that Vishnu and I did our best to learn and use common Italian words and phrases whenever we could! Grazie, ciao, buonasera, per favore – we said it all!

Italy_Capri_Boat Tour 
And finally, after 12 days in three different Italian cities, we picked up quite a few tips that I thought would be fun to share and hopefully prove to be helpful!

In no particular order…

  1. House wine is the way to go. It’s cheap (sometimes cheaper than water) and pairs nicely with the food. I went red 99% of the time, but the white I did try was equally as good.
  2. Not all gelato is made the same. Go where the lines are.
  3. Learn some Italian and speak it. Don’t be shy. We learned pretty quickly that it’s a sign of respect and very much appreciated.
  4. Walk as much as you can! It’s the best way to see and explore whatever city you’re in. And get lost a little. See how people live and enjoy the entire city…not just the touristy stuff.
  5. With that being said, bring good walking shoes. I wore my Toms 99% of the time, and while they were fine, I often wished I had better shoes to support all the walking and climbing we did.
  6. Tips are not required. Most restaurants tack on the service charge so you don’t need to leave additional money. And the ones that don’t make it very apparent on the receipt.
  7. If you like your pasta a bit more cooked than al dente, make sure to say something. Especially when ordering something like penne.
  8. You have to pay for water everywhere you go. We paid anywhere from 1-4 Euros. To avoid that, carry a water bottle with you and refill it when possible.
  9. Sometimes you have to pay for bread. If you know that you’re not going to eat it, tell your waiter ahead of time so you don’t get charged.
  10. Some restaurants charge a sitting fee. It’s not much (2 Euros/person) but can add up over the course of your trip. Just be sure to ask before being seated.
  11. You have to ask for your check. Italy is not like the US where people sit down, eat quickly, and leave. Dinner can easily take over 1.5 hours. And a lot of that time is waiting for your waiter to bring the check so be sure to ask for it.
  12. Pick hotels that are close to the center of the city. You want something that’s close to the sites you want to see, near restaurants and cafes, and close to public transportation. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier!
  13. Even if you have your iPhone, carry a physical map with you at all times. Our favorite ones came from the hotels themselves. iPhone directions can be somewhat confusing at times, especially with all the roads and intersections. Having a map handy makes navigating a lot easier! So does having a smart husband!
  14. Always be watchful over your belongings, especially in train stations. Make sure your bags are zipped all the way and put more valuable items in harder to reach places.
  15. There’s no need to bring a hairdryer with you. But just know that European hairdryers are not as powerful as American ones. They get the job done…it just takes 3x as long.
  16. Lots of places accept credit cards but not all places. My research led me to believe that we wouldn’t need much cash, but we ended up having to visit an ATM. Not a big deal, but just be aware that a lot of places still don’t accept plastic! Also, research your bank’s fees and all that beforehand.
  17. If you can swing it, plan your trip in either April or October. This tip comes straight from the locals. You’ll get the best weather and the least amount of people.
  18. Download Rick Steves’ Audio Europe app. It’s essentially the tour guide you never paid for. We used it several times during our trip…while visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Uffizi, the Academia, etc. And in addition to the walking tours, he has a number of talks where he discusses different aspects of the culture. I loved the ones about Italian food and dessert – duh!

Well, that’s all I have for now! Like I said, I have three very specific posts planned for next week, so be on the lookout for those.

Happy Friday!

P.S. I haven’t forgotten about the Minted winner!  Be on the lookout for an announcement early next week.

A Glimpse in to Ruchi’s World

Hello hello!  We got back from Italy yesterday and are still adjusting to “real life.”  I’m back at work and Vishnu’s getting ready for a boy’s trip to Vegas.  I have so much to share about our trip and plan to do so starting on Friday.  Can’t wait!

In the meantime, Ruchi is guest posting today and sharing more about herself and her business.  Thanks, Ruch…so excited to have you on MIS!

* * * * *

Namaste and Hello!  First off, thank you so much for the support, and special thanks to Parita for opening up her space to me.  I am so excited about guest posting, and I hope it’ll start up some interesting and fun convos!

We thought for the first post it would be a good idea to give you all a little background info.  As Parita mentioned, I met Jai (my husband) in 2007, and we quickly knew that even though our future (as a couple) was not decided just yet, India was definitely in the cards for him.  He always knew he wanted to move back and join the family business.

*Side Note:  When it comes to big decisions in my life, I’m crystal clear – don’t waiver one bit – once I know, I know.  And when it comes to the small decisions, I’m a big mess!  Go figure!  SO, the idea of moving to India was actually okay with me, and I was a ‘yes’ pretty early on.

Anyway, moving on (no pun intended).  In 2010, the big move happened, and that was it – time for India to become my new home, my new permanent home.  Everyone was pretty surprised and worried about how I would adjust, but I guess I tried to be as positive as possible and kept reminding myself that I had to make the most of my new situation.  Yes, I was totally scared, didn’t really know what to expect and basically just felt far away from everything and everyone I knew.  Sometimes though, it’s these things in life that really make you stronger and appreciate all that you already have.  I know, it sounds all perfect storybook and cliché at the same time, but seriously, it’s true.

driving2 
Driving school like I’m 15 again!

gangaur1 
Dressing up for lots of traditional pujas!

Well, before I was even completely settled, Jai suggested I go ahead and start my own business.  At the time, I thought he was absolutely crazy – I mean who starts a business when they’re not even used to this new life and place?!  Not only did I still need to get used to being married, but now I was in a new country, new family, everything!  As usual though, he was right (don’t tell him I said that :) ), and it was probably the best thing I did.

Because fashion has always been a passion of mine, we figured what better place than India to dive right in.  I was then forced to learn Hindi, teach myself how to deal with tailors, learn about fabrics and stitching…basically, I had to learn how to work here – and let me tell you, it is a totally different ball game.  After growing up in the States and knowing that 99% of people work with a proper timetable, are professional and respect you, I really had to bring my expectations down.  But with that came a new appreciation for this new city and seeing how hard some people really do work with such few means.

stitch2 
One of my first sewing projects!

My entire experience has been humbling and exciting and frustrating, and I know this will continue in the coming years as well.  I never would have thought in a million years that I’d 1) be living in India and 2) be running my own business, but I must say, I feel so lucky to be able to do all of this and share my anecdotes with all of you.  Life really does surprise you sometimes.

Puja3 
A little bit of Kolkata – huge festival/puja which takes place in the fall.

satis4 
Kolkata street food – a must!

So many of the pieces in my line are inspired by my [new] life here and the need to fit in but still feel like myself.  I learn something every single day, and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.

Thanks for popping over to listen to my rambling.  I’ll most likely be over here once a month to share stories about my everyday happenings and some fashion advice/tips as well!  We’d love to hear if there are any specific topics you’d like to chat about, so let us know!

In addition to my posts here, I’ll also have my own blog for those who’d like to follow along a little more closely (www.pinkbyruchi.com/blog) and I’m on Instagram @pinkbyruchi (for some #ootd pics and other tid-bits)!

‘Til next time!

* * * * *

Thanks again, Ruchi!  So happy and excited for you!

And happy Wednesday, all! 

Minted Artwork + A Giveaway

It’s been almost two months since I’ve blogged about Minted. Remember? I asked for your help in choosing a piece?

Well, for once, I didn’t forget to update you. I postponed this post on purpose. Why? Because one, Vishnu and I wanted to wait and see where he matched before we moved forward with our decision. And two, we had to wait for the pieces to be delivered before I could share more.

So here are the two prints we selected…

As I mentioned, we chose the foil art Georgia picture because that’s where we met and fell in love. Regardless of where life takes us, Georgia will always be home!

Minted Art 009
And the second piece of artwork we selected was the foil art Chicago city picture. This was the wait and see piece. Just like how Georgia/Atlanta holds a special place in our hearts, we’re certain Chicago will also be very near and dear to us.

Minted Art 007
While we decided to order just the prints, Minted also frames your selected artwork if you so choose. Since we know we have two moves coming up in the next year, we decided to hold off on framing these until we get settled in Chicago. That way there’s no chance of something will breaking and shattering during the actual moves!

I am totally in love with these prints and can’t wait to put them up in our new home! I also love how there’s a foil art print for every state and even some major cities. My next purchase will be a foil art print of Florida – our first home after marriage!  Depending on how many moves we have in our future (hopefully not many), we can document our journey using this artwork.

And I have to note another cool aspect of Minted artwork.  All of it comes from a talented community of independent artists from big cities and small towns all over the world.  For example, the two artists who created our chosen pieces are Alex Elko from San Francisco and Eric Beckett from Los Angeles.

So now I have an awesome giveaway for all of you who may be looking for a fun new art piece to display in your home!  Minted has graciously offered to give one reader a $50 gift card to used on Minted.com! 

To enter please visit Minted and share which piece of artwork is your favorite.

I will be drawing a winner upon my return from Italy…so you have lots of time!

And speaking of Italy, I won’t be blogging while away, but feel free to follow along on mine and/or Vishnu’s Instagram accounts!  I’m sure we’ll be posting lots of pictures from our adventures.

See you all in a couple of weeks!

Disclosure: I received Minted credit in exchange for writing this post.  However, (as always) all opinions are my own.

Creating a Vision Board in 5 Easy Steps

Like a lot of things, I’ve had “work on vision board” on my to do list FOREVER. I even asked Vishnu to make a special trip to Target to pick up a piece of poster board and a glue stick!

After months of thinking about it, I finally sat down with my poster board, a glue stick, and a bunch of magazines to make my vision board come to life. I even asked Vishnu if he wanted to make one too. His exact reply was, “No. Unless I can create something on my computer.” I remained silent and kept cutting away!

Creating a vision board

The whole point, in my mind, of creating a vision board is to make purposeful decisions about what you add to your collage. It’s all about intention and manifesting. For example, I looked for images and words that inspired me or represented the things that I want my life to include. For example, travel, health/wellness, good food, love, etc. And while it may be possible to do electronically, I think the whole exercise is more powerful if you do it the old fashioned way.

Other reasons to create a vision board may include clarifying a specific vision, reinforcing daily affirmations/intentions, etc.

For me, more than any of that, it was just a fun way to spend my time! And I was finally able to get rid of the collection of magazines stacked up on our coffee table. Haha. Of course, part of me is also hoping that by placing my vision board in a visible place, I’ll be able to manifest some of these things in my life! I’ve heard it’s a powerful tool.

Creating a vision board 2

If you’re interested in vision boarding, here’s how in 5 easy steps:

  1. Collect as many magazines as you can. Unfortunately, my stack included tons of New Yorkers, Time, and two home décor magazines. I wish I had a few Food Network or Health issues thrown in!
  2. Purchase a piece of poster board in the size of your choosing, a glue stick, and a pair of good quality pair of scissors (if you don’t already own one).
  3. Go through each magazine, cutting out words, images, symbols, phrases, etc. that resonate with you, your vision, life, daily affirmations/intentions, etc. Don’t think too much about it.  Just go with whatever catches your eye!
  4. Glue the clippings on to the poster board in whatever way you want. If you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s no real method. Just do you!
  5. Keep your vision board in a place where you’ll see it at least once a day. Personally, I like to keep mine by my bed so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it.  Here’s to our vision boards and manifesting lots of fun in our lives!

P.S. Obviously, my vision board is a work in progress since my poster board is huge!  I hope to complete it before our move to St. Petersburg.

Have you ever created a vision board?
Do you believe in the power of manifestation?