Archive for September, 2014

Torino is bullsh*t

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Travels

Ah… j’ai pris arrivee France, just look at the beautiful view!

Arrivederci Italia! On the TGV from Turin to Paris, en route to Bordeaux (yes… through Paris!) it was cold like the Torinesi people, and foggy. Quite fittingly, after crossing the border into France through a long tunnel, we popped out the other side to chaud soleil et belle campagne! 😘 Je tu ai manqué France! Our stop in Bardonecchia Italy, to let police on the train for inspection, proved that yes I am finally arriving my favourite country… those policemen were all ridiculously gorgeous! 🇫🇷

At the end of the day, bullsh*t Torino served it’s purpose and provided a few laughs along the way. After a full 30 days in my first European apartment, I was definitely ready to go. The Roma apartment was not up to my standard but well-located for all the touristic spots a tourist is meant to visit, close to the hotels I sited, and Termini Stazione… where I wound up at least once a week. Oh yes… and just blocks from the Frenchmen in the hotel on Via Nazionale! 😉

The day I left Rome was super relaxed, I walked to Piazza Venezia to fetch my new handmade sandals admiring myself as quite the logistical wizard! ✨ I was all packed up and would take a taxi back to Via Modena to collect luggage and then be taken on to Termini. My initial solution for train journey between Roma and Bordeaux turned out to be the best path. Somehow in my mind it all made perfect sense. Italo at 14:00 to Turin, overnight in the charming Olympic city to enjoy my last Italian meal F.O.R.E.V.E.R. But, everybody there just irritated me. With the exception of the cute bartender at La Capannina and the older Carabinieri I met having a midnight martini 🍸 in the lobby of my irritating hotel. Thanks to the kindness of a sweet Nigerian man that I later completely ignored, I was at the hotel in plenty of time to get over to the OTHER train station to secure the unnecessary reservation from hell: Turin to Bordeaux, through Paris… with a changement de la station de train. So optimistic ‘sweet Liz’. 😇 Three brilliant words: Queen of Clubs. At hotel check-in I was told there is a Costello Ristorante in ‘the’ square. I don’t know which square but I never had the chance to look after my argument with the Trenitalia asshole at Porto Nuova Stazione! I wasted more time trying to get this unnecessary train reservation! After nearly being hit by several random unhappy-looking bicyclers… I’ll admit to having a nice Piemonte dinner.

All of this is a laughable faint memory now, washed away by the brilliant, extraordinary city of Bordeaux. Perhaps I am in some sort of a strange French incantation!? 😳 That’s fine by me! I’ll take it. I realise each city-move delivers its own set of circumstances, anxieties and adventure. But when everything just falls right into place, without warning or fail… it feels almost predestined. Suddenly, I’m in a warm beorgeois belle ville with a vibe I simply can’t resist. I’m able to get by with the little French I’m comfortable using and the Bordelais are fabulous. I think I have fallen in love. Sadly my deadlines and work load prevented me from much exploration, but… allons! !!! Finally, I was shown my new ‘home’ by the illustrious Frenchman, or more accurately said: possibly the kindest person I’ve ever met. After a week full of honest hard work, habituating with my flat owners, and starry-eyed nights… I discovered I am inherently well-adjusted in Bordeaux, properly toured the city, ate exceptionally well and was honoured to see ‘this’ side of the Atlantic Ocean. Wow! 😍

Bordeaux and I… well, we’ve only just begun! As the St Estephe breathes and the cannelé are savoured … this Bordelais girl looks forward to a busy productive week and a further-look east into the southwest of France.

The sensibility in Bordeaux, for me, is infectious. And I have caught whatever zest it is, massively. Where else can one be steeped into Louis XV beauty, find any cuisine (including baby cow thymus), and get the perfect épilation maillot for €11,00!!?

I hang my new French and American flags (literally) high. Sigh 😘 I could listen to French ALL day and night long…

x and ooo and bonne nuit!


The mesmerizing view from my Bordeaux flat front window… wow


The ethnic food aisle in the Carrefour Market, a site for sore Italian eyes!

La dolce vita è a Firenze

Posted: September 18, 2014 in Travels

a tiny pedestrian walkway on the right bank of the Arno x

The heart of Tuscany, birthplace of the Renaissance and symbolism of the fleur de lis. 😍 However I should not be allowed there without full protection… from myself, and my bank accounts! More money has been spent in Firenze in two days than the last 25 in the south of Italy. The cuisine is just incredible… far more diverse, interesting and gluten-friendly. Medici, and the Four Seasons stole il mio cuore 💘 The city is charismatic, proud and truly autentico. I would definitely have to learn Italian to stay longer than three days. The Fiorentini can be quite snobbish, as was pointed out by several local friends and colleagues. They might take a cool attitude toward yet another american defecting to their unmatched UNESCO perfection. The esteemed guidance was to live on the San Croce side of the Arno to avoid being stereotyped too much.

Given we are STILL in Italy 😳 I must blather on about the food, naturalmente!!! I stumbled upon this fresh, totally provincial and relaxed Tuscan cafe called Mangiofoco, on a quaint Via just behind the enchanting Ponte Vecchio. The products, the people and the vibe was warm and alive… but totally chill. That just seemed to be the way in Firenze. And the true locals certainly know it. I have lived an entire life without whole tomatoes, honey or pesto, yet something about Firenze revolutionised those ingredients. Bringing a little truffle love ‘home’ for Thanksgiving… despite the unfortunate soufflé experience circa 2011 in Paris! 😊

Everything is effortlessly beautiful. The art… even street graffiti, the men, the jewellery, the wine, the hotels and the Arno. Wow! I was rather fortunate to spend time in two very different hotels. One being the brand new Portrait Firenze, a Salvatore Ferragamo conquest, which ironically is how I feel about the handbag he made for me as well. 😉 The family was destined for simple perfection! Next I moved to a 15th century Renaissance palace, which is the breathtaking Four Seasons. Comprised of a Medici palace, five hectares of the most peaceful serene botanical gardens and a 16th century Conventino. Given my very special adoration for the 17th of September, a spa treatment was definitely on the menu! Hot candle wax dripped directly on my skin and then massaged perfectly for 75 short minutes… overlooking gardens that have withstood several popes, wars and centuries. It was a bit of magic, and in an indescribably different way than the magic I spoke of in Positano. Such diversity across a relatively small country!

It was a fabulous experience, and to be honest, a fair amount of work as well. Nine hotel sites in two days! Plus dinners, lunches, shopping, worldwide what’s apps and the business! Sheesh… exhausting! 😲 but I will never forget the corner shop with the non-English speaking jewellery-maker who had little rubber thingies on just his thumbs. He showed me the creative wisdom to almost every piece in his impressive showroom. While I might have become rather expert at the ‘grat-zie-a’ pronunciation of thank you, I basically speak no Italiano. Yet this lovely artist and I managed. And managed to spend a shit load of euro! 💶 👸 🔫 I deserve it.

Especially when Make You Feel My Love seems to be played in all forms everywhere I turn. Like by the piano player down in the 15th century gardens of the Four Seasons in Firenze. Sigh…

Five more sleeps and I am en route to j’adore France! Determined to make the most use of the rail pass and further enhance my logistics expertise… I will take the train from Rome to Bordeaux. 😆 It makes me laugh to see people’s reaction to that declaration! If anyone can do it, with two really big suitcases and quite a few acquired Italian treasures that simply won’t fit… it is me! I think it will be funny. Termini to Torino for an impromptu overnight at a Golden Palace… followed by ten TGV hours, including one cross-town Parisian transfer and voila! Je serai en France! Yes, it is quicker for me to go all the way to Paris to change trains than through Marseille or Lyon. Italy has been fabulous, and I’ve seen so much, eaten so much and am ready to move on… I’ve got vendange (grape harvest), an international film festival and St. Estephe patiently awaiting. I look forward to the massive upscale apartment with full professional kitchen in the heart of Bordeaux. Anxious for the loads of men in scarves, France 24, El Taco Del Diablo, and chill time with good friends. No pasta! I wonder how many doors and keys it will require to actually get into the French apartment?!! 😳

Five more sleeps here in the Piazza della Repubblica 🎉 so exciting!

x and ooo


My very first pesto at Mangiofoco… it was perfetto!


The view from my suite at the incomparable Portrait Suites Firenze

Surprised charm and molto pizza in Napoli

Posted: September 12, 2014 in Travels

The view from Parco di Principe across the Mediterranean to Mt Vesuvius

I must admit that Pompeii has always intrigued me. But the whole ‘it’s too close to Naples’ thing continued to deter a visit, and my professional recommendation for anyone else to. Shame on me! 😠

Assuredly, I would not have made the one hour journey had it not been for the pure kindness and absolute determination of a friend who lives there. He convinced me that absolutely yes !!! it is a charming destination and important part of Italy to experience. Did you know they have four castles and more churches within its perimeters than… well, than a lot of places!? Like 200 of them! Huge gratitude to the enamoring Napoletani, and their ridiculously intelligent immigrato francese 😉 who made it possible to completely change the view of at least one currently-defected american. Trust I will spread the word!

Napoli itself is a popular touristic destination for Europeans, and other non-americans. The streets were full and lively. Sure, it was a bit chaotic in its own infatuating way… but I never felt unsafe. Granted I had my very own local to show me around, and am so pleased to have done so! Now I highly recommend it! Likely as a stop-over and with the luxury of a trusted and fun guide, which Envizage can now recommend with 100% confidence. I have not experienced Italy extensively by any stretch of the word, but for those of us who actually enjoy exotic authentic destinations and want to experience true culture – Napoli is a must! 🇮🇹 Taking a bit of time to wander around the Spanish Quarter, Old Town and Il Lungomare with all its ‘corno’ good fortune, motorbikes and oh my gosh the freaking pizza 🍕 well, it’s just one of those amazing moments I will forever cherish, and likely never replicate elsewhere. Nor would I want to! Yes, you’ve got to be vigilant. But aren’t us diehard travelers always? Just zip up the fucking purse and don’t engage with the randoms!! It’s not rocket science.

There is so much more to it than the pizza, which I must admit was light, amazing and worth every part of Italian gluten I ate. It’s different than any other pizza I’ve had, in taste and consistency. Here I go, incessant about the food still! After a crash course of Napoli and all its fabulousness, I was fortunate to visit Sorrento for the day, and experience it’s stunning beauty. Naples and Sorrento are the gateway to all those seemingly complicated perfect parts of Italy that we all (or at least I did) thought required €1,000 a night for hotel, scary expensive car rental and a P.Diddy yacht to experience. Capri, Positano, Pompeii, Ischia, and Amalfi: done, done and done! Sorrento itself has a serene charm and magnifico view of the ‘sleeping’ Mt Vesuvius 😊 and gorgeous tufo rock black sand in the Mediterranean Sea. It is quite peaceful and inviting. Mt Vesuvius is the only active volcano, albeit not currently active, in Europe. A perpetual concern of the Napoletani as an ‘awakening’ could be a replication of Pompeii in AD 79.

I could go on and on, about the captivating generosity and benevolence of the Italians, my industry and enchanted experiences! Instead yet another gluten experience of a ‘lifetime’ back in Roma at JK Place awaited. Burgers. 😳 Time to get out the fat-girl clothes… except oh shoot I gave all that to the thrift store before my temporary departure from NYC. Nah it’s just time to hit Villa Borghese and the spin place on Barberini before heading to Florence for a few days next week! You better believe I will be fit in time for those hot French men in scarves! 😚

I’ve grown a little bit anxious as I realise my last days in Italy are quickly approaching. I purchased my Italo ticket for the random overnight in Torino as a last hurrah. Until Milano in November anyway. Yet like a real European… I’ve learned how to do laundry without using a drying machine! Sort of. Any pro would surely have a laugh at my rack. My clothes rack! Equally European I’ve decided, is that my fingernails have grown just barely. Not even enough to file yet!

x and ooo


He tried to make me eat the whole thing at Gino Sorbillo, and I nearly did! 😨 Napoli style.


All the Italians are so concerned this little blonde has eaten, and bring me gluten! This is the bus stop in Positano.

I caved. It started with being polite in Positano… so I completely disown all responsibility for my recent gluten-inhalation and blame poise whilst in the company of a truly acclaimed Italian family. It was bound to happen! 😳 Thankfully I have learned the natural Italian ingredients will not affect me in the same american chemically-induced (and banned from Italy) manner. Don’t get me wrong… I am stuffed to the gills, and feel it. But the fact that my perfectly coifed fingernails have not even grown a millimetre in length is quite telling. So yes, I chose to order the jeera naan alongside my highly anticipated chicken tikka. I am a a bit over Italian food at this stage and found myself yelping Mexican restaurants ‘nearby’ at 23:00 hours last night!

I’ve just started to get my bearings and know my streets now. I’ve returned from the most magical and surreal three days in Positano. There are no words to describe how incredible Positano is. When I was a young teenager watching the Marisa Tomei movie… never in a million years could I have imagined being an invited ‘guest’. It was rather enchanting. All of it. The linen shops, the steps, the winding streets, the handmade sandals… even the crazy thunderstorms, it was worth my four+ hour bus ride from Rome. Everyone should go to Positano at some point in their life. Even if it’s for one day or one night, or it’s the last $1,000 in their bank account. Go. 💫

Thankfully I brought my sneakers as I was quickly invited to climb the steps to the charming village of Nocelle, shortly after my arrival. I am so happy I did! The indescribable beauty at 1,700+ steps up… what a remarkably perfect day that was. The elevation left me with heavy breath, and then there were still 1,700 steps down. It was exhilarating and I felt justified because it was just before then that I caved to my first bit of bread with my whitefish carpaccio at lunch. Dinner was irresistible handmade ravioli for dinner, but there were only five! 😉 I do feel a bit cliche going on about the food in Italy, but it’s pretty difficult to neglect! I decided to get back on track. Day three in paradise and 230 squats, dips and abs later, I was cozied up in the garden room by the pool, innocently skype-drinking with my favorite man in the Middle East… and then boom! Mid-skype I was summoned to lunch with an insalata verde and freshly made puttanesca. 😍 These italian men like ordering for me! When I arrived back to Rome five+ hours later, I was craving cacio e peppe. Alright. So my nails may not have grown in nearly seven days, and the ingredients ARE natural… but this ends now. The fitness center at Barberini around the corner is €18 per day and I will run through Villa Borghese domani.

I am finding living in Italy to be quite fascinating. It blows my mind really. Did you know there is a division of the European Union, like high up on the governments priority list. It is dedicated to preserving the ingredients allowed into the foods, the products (and their chemical DNA) allowed to be imported and an overall safeguarding of the culture. At least this is how my beautiful mind interpreted it. The USDA is clearly not a member but has convinced this EU sector to take fully privatised meetings on the subject of american imports. I obviously cannot speak to the outcome or the rationale of the Italian people… but let me just say that it certainly doesn’t surprise me. And the Italians aren’t impressed either. No one here can understand why the US has organised it so no transcripts can be recorded! Of course this is my opinionated summary of a lovely conversation after several spritz and glasses of Monticello… but it resonates. I wonder how long it will be until my fingernails grow a little. 😊

Life here has been poetic. Things just fall into place. I am busy, I am responsible, and I am enjoying having my mornings free for exercise. I feel effective. Oh gosh Janice, is that the correct usage?! I hope so because I feel alive, relevant and effective with an capital ‘E’. Hopefully it’s not meant to be an ‘A’. There is no lack of activity, friends, or things to procrastinate work. 😉 It’s all v positive and wondrous… as I continue to peg away at it with clients, I can’t help but have a far more starry-eyed outlook on life. Without care how the Phillies are doing or where USC football stands in the BCS.

Instead, I am impressed by the Italian charm and hospitality which most definitely rivals Asian. I’m surprised how affordable ‘living’ in Rome is. The house is stocked gluten-free, for just €35. Wine, prosecco and Campari is on my shelves for about the same value!

Whoa and just in the blink of an eyelash, I read a friend’s Facebook post: “when a man falls in love with a woman she becomes his weakness. When a woman falls for a man he becomes her strength.” Wasn’t expecting that stinger but sadly it reminds me of my heart-wrenching reality. Or former reality. It is what I had 😔 sigh… it’s quite difficult when someone you care so much for cannot get happy.

Onward and upward: back to being impressed with these hot Italians… ha! Which will then lead me to the French, and their scarves. I’ve got pricelessly genuine and hilarious friends coming to visit which I can hardly stand waiting for. It will be incredible and during the 3rd ever Bordeaux International Film Festival, which my flat is a block from. Life keeps moving forward and positive, and karmically into place… with the business and personally as well. No solid answers for the future. How amazing is that!!? Well that’s not true, both my lovelies in NYC and San Fran agreed on appointments in the 5 hour windows I allotted. 😊 I could not have made a better decision to be in Europe, on all fronts. I am coming for thanksgiving AJ, and I will look forward to the traditional Stewart family spread (mashed, turkey, brussels and beets!) while I travel through this ridiculously perfect continent.

I had to share my iPhoto overview, it makes me laugh. My Italian friends are all too comfortable with my phone to flip though the photos I’ve taken. Only to find these hot men in speedos with blow-up alligators on my feed. Did you realise when photos are sent via What’s App they immediately save to your iPhotos log?! 😄 Well I do now and it is fucking hilarious. I wouldn’t change any piece of my life for nothing… I love it!!!

Fiesta della Repubblica 🎉 in the Piazza della Repubblica!  xx and ooo… and I am serious: GO to Positano in your lifetime!



View of Sirenuse from atop the 1,700+ steps in the village of Nocelle



Loving my iPhoto feed! No need to justify as my people know my prudish ways all too well.