Tag Archives: weekend trip


Oh Venice. You were the last one left on my list of top three cities to visit in 2013, and it took two years to finally get to you.

You were worth it, stink and all.Venice is every bit romantic as you can imagine, but you also need to come knowing that it is an expensive, often extremely touristy and crowded city.

That’s Venice. Just look how Italian it looks below. Sigh.We stayed close to “the most beautiful bookstore in the world” as our landlord and the owner of said bookstore told us, and it was certainly a strange and novel experience wandering through the overly filled store with a staircase out back made out of books.On the Saturday we had amazing weather with blue skies and I mostly wanted to soak in the canal sites, which were just breathtaking. 🙂Considering it was another cloudy, rainy weekend in Zurich, we were beside ourselves.A little tired, but very happy to be here!At the end of October, it was pretty fresh around 15ºC (59ºF) and 9ºC (48ºF) at night, but we had our jackets and scarves and it was still warmer than it is in Zurich at the moment.We headed over to San Marco to visit Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco during the time slot Kay had purchased online. Thank goodness for that, it was great to skip ahead the lines!The square was already (or still?) a bit flooded with “acqua alta” as the Italians say. It was only 3-4 inches deep in some spots and the effect was actually beautiful, although astonishing.Closer to the basilica, there were risers set up for people to walk on. Kay and I were still happy we both had on gortex waterproof shoes for the more shallow puddles.After the basilica, we climbed the San Marco Campanile bell tower for this amazing view over the city.After the tower we picked up our tickets for the Doge’s Palace that we planned on visiting the next day. Good thing too, because overnight a huge cruise ship unloaded and the ticket line for picking up tickets was packed the next day!After San Marco, Kay agreed to humor me with an absurdly expensive gondola ride, because this was my romantic trip to Venice and we would probably only do it once.

Official rates for gondolas while we were there were €80 for 30 minutes, which really meant 25-30 minutes depending on traffic, or €100 for 30-35 minutes after 7pm. We spent the €80 and tried not to think about what we were doing.I thought it was worth it! I mean, it’s not really worth the price, but at the same time, you just have to do it. There isn’t really another way for tourists to experience Venice from this vantage point and it’s absolutely not the same as walking over the footbridges. Plus our rower pointed out a lot of famous buildings from this new perspective, including the house Mozart stayed in during his time in Venice, city hall, and where George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin got married.Back on land, we waited for sunset in San Marco and then headed for dinner.Kay was pretty tired, but I begged him to stay out a bit longer so that I could take some long exposures of the canals by night.The next morning, our flat was still stinky as ever (combination of cigarette smoke and canal stink), but we’d gotten a bit used to it by sleeping at night. It must have previously been a boat garage because the window in the back led directly to the canal, with boat access for the owner.Below, you can see the window entrance on the left side under the laundry, which hung above the window in the photo above. It definitely looks like they bricked in two boat garages to make way for more living space.Below was the front room of the flat with kitchen, wash machine, and fridge.After breakfast at the flat, we headed over to San Marco again to visit the Doge’s Palace on a cloudy Sunday.The weather had turned quite a bit from the day before, but that was fine because we’d planned to be inside for most of the day anyway.After a long time in the palace though, stuck in some armory rooms at the end, I was pretty tired. Time to wake up with a coffee wine.For the rest of the day we sort of wandered around more before shopping for some street vendor art so that I could have a painting of Venice to match my painting of Paris. I like the idea of filling up our house with romantic city paintings. 🙂On the vaporetto back to the airport, we took the long way around from the southern tip of the city where the street vendors were, so I had an hour to nap on Kay before our flight back.

One of the most interesting parts of Venice for me was imagining what the city looked like hundreds of years ago and how it’s changed with decay, renovation, restoration, and expansion throughout the years. It was fascinating to see the history in the buildings and even old previously usable steps down to the canal that cannot be used anymore due to water levels changing.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend trip and marks the last city trip of the year before our holidays start. I am thankful for how many cities we’ve been able to visit!


Having been in Switzerland since 2008, I have visited all of Switzerland’s shared borders with multiple trips to Germany, France, Italy, and at least one stop in Vienna to see Austria, so it was about time to stop by one of the smallest European countries with the 3rd highest GDP in the world.

Kay and I took his motorbike for one last ride before he sells it before school and spent the night at Hotel Turna MalbunIt was one of those weekends that was actually nicer weather at home, but we spent the afternoon and next morning in the sauna and steam room relaxing and reading during the rest periods.

We had an easy dinner and while the staff couldn’t provide GF bread at dinner, they did have gluten free bread ready for me in the morning when I asked for it. I could still order the menu special at dinner and they just modified the soup and dessert to be something I could eat.The next morning we saw a glimpse of nice weather before heading home, where it was cloudy and cold by the time we got back.The hotel and wellness area were “alright”, but for 137CHF a night, they were 3/5. Not bad, but definitely not luxurious. The rooms are pretty basic, but the beds are comfortable. The sauna area was a little underwhelming, but it was fine for what it was.The ride back was pretty cold. I should have put snow pants on or something, because 1.5h on the bike on the highway at 120km/h was COLD. I thought I would never be warm again when we got home, even with all that time in the sauna.Kay made big hot chocolates for us with the rest of the Bailey’s chocolate liquor and we warmed up well after a nice, long, hot shower.

Liechtenstein is in the book and marked the first weekend of six in a row abroad for me, with all my traveling planned ahead. 🙂

Gluten free Porto, Portugal

In general, I found very little about specific gluten free restaurants in Porto or restaurants with gluten free menus. For this trip, I focused on the restaurant card and explaining what I could not eat, which was fine with the Mediterranean influenced and heavy seafood diet in Portugal.

These weekend trips are getting a little expensive, so I tried to keep costs low by booking Jualis Guest House. Our supposed room was overbooked, so we ended up being placed in what seemed like a studio apartment from the owners that faced the street and was pretty noisy, but at 30€ a night, we were not complaining. The staff were all really helpful and nice as well.

Mainly though, I booked because I had read a review that they could give you gluten free bread at breakfast and that is the one meal that I do not want to worry about on a trip. After some confusion asking them to confirm this via email beforehand, they did say they could provide gluten free bread and sure enough, I received special gluten free rolls heated up just for me in the morning. They would even ask what time we would come for breakfast so that I didn’t have to wait. Kay was a little jealous because his bread was cold and it was hard to warm ourselves up eating on the patio in the cooler weather.Still wanting a nicer coffee, we stopped at Café Moustache, where I ordered gluten free cake along with my cappucino just because they had it.For lunch, I was adventurous and agreed to eat at a local diner at Largo São Domingos 23, which I couldn’t get a picture of the restaurant name, but we dropped down that dark scaffolding area in the photo below and went to the restaurant with the red door.It had a 100% Portuguese menu and we decided to order some wine with lunch before our port winery tour. Not the best place for wine though unfortunately…I was really enjoying starting to read and understand things in Portuguese. There is still a ton to learn, but I already feel like I can communicate a tiny, tiny bit better. While Kay ordered a typical Francesinha dish, I ordered fish, which they just battered in egg instead of flour as well.We had to scramble a bit to get to Ferreira cellars on time. The tour of the cellars was very brief and then it was time for the degustation. Most of the 50 person group were only trying the 2 ports included in the standard price.

Only our table with two other couples were trying 5 different kinds.It was a bit of a disappointing degustation because all the port was too quickly explained and then the guide took the bottles away with the labels and left, so we had no reference besides our quick retention skills to talk about what we were supposed to be tasting.It was a shame because they even had the glasses set up on sheets with space for writing, so they could have easily written down what we were drinking.

Lastly, there was no water or anything to snack on to clear your palette between sips. All in all, not the best degustation we’d ever been to, but we still enjoyed the port with our limited introduction. 🙂We did get to sample a 20 year old tawny (if I have that right) as well as another LBV. I of course liked the most expensive one the best. 🙂After the port, we were a little tipsy and tried to wake ourselves up with a coffee on the walk back to the bridge. Mine had a wonderful sweet cinnamon touch.After coffee we wandered around aimlessly wondering what to do. Museums were closed, but it was not yet time for dinner and without my usual gluten free selection guide, we were again lost as we normally were on city trips pre-celiac disease.

Finally we decided to stop at the seemingly super touristy Majestic Cafe, because we were tired and a little hungry and just did not care about the extra price. Like the Livraria Lello & Irmão bookstore, apparently Cafe Majestic is said to be where JK Rowling started one of her first drafts of Harry Potter.It ended up being a pretty nice restaurant. Sure, the prices were a little more expensive than other places, but Kay thought the melon above was to die for and the restaurant was knowledgeable enough about gluten to make a special gluten free port sauce for my duck.We also decided to sample another brand of port to help us with our decision of what to purchase at the end. Knowing we liked both the 20 year tawny and LBV from Ferreira, we tried the same from Graham’s and decided we liked both of them much more than the Ferreira stuff. The 20 year tawny was the better of the two and had a nice long and complex finish.The next day we got up for breakfast again before checking out and finding that the sun was starting to peek out. We stopped for a fresh juice and coffee before tackling our day.I had actually asked, albeit with very short notice, if there was room for dinner reservations for two at The Yeatman’s Michelin-starred restaurant for Saturday evening and unfortunately there were not, so I was excited when I asked about Sunday lunch and they confirmed my reservation.

Kay, on the other hand, almost wanted to cancel the lunch reservations because he didn’t feel like “dressing up” in his business shirt and getting all sweaty the next morning climbing the tower certainly didn’t help.

But shortly after sprucing ourselves up and being seated with a port aperitif and the view below from our table, Kay was sure that this was the absolute best decision of the weekend.And it was. This meal made up for all the missed anniversaries this year. We hadn’t gotten around to eating somewhere amazing and this place really spoiled us. They altered everything to be gluten free for me if necessary.Chef’s greetings with lobster and caviar on a macaroon base and avocado cream on what I think was a shrimp kind of cracker for me and a corn tortilla cracker for Kay.

Below, micro carrots.Next was a refreshing gazpacho and molecular mozzarella to the right, paired with a white wine. I was terrible and forgot to get any of the wine names.Below was a crispy salmon fillet sandwich with wasabi mayonnaise.Sea bass, crustaceans & coconut served in a halved coconut.Below then codfish swim bladder and bean stew, codfish fillet and codfish sauce. This one tasted nice and hearty, like preparing for winter.The main was grilled and glazed sirloin, chanterelle mushrooms and barbecue sauce & oxtail stew. I think below is the oxtail stew and the next photo is the sirloin with mushrooms.Ah, heaven!!They also served Kay seaweed bread and another kind, while I enjoyed a nice light and fluffy gluten free bread with soft butter and olive oil.The “pre dessert” was some kind of chocolate mousse over nuts. Kay’s probably had some gluten cookie underneath which they just replaced with nuts for me.Actual dessert was green tea cream with lime merengue, tonka bean ice cream and iced tea.Here was the iced tea. Funny serving. We were marveling at the interesting dishes for presenting food. Some of the plates were quite large and voluminous.After dinner we received a selection of macaroons and chocolates. I left the crackery bits to Kay.After dessert, we decided to try some more port again, so we splurged a bit and chose an LBV from 2010 and a 1976 vintage from Krohn.I am not sure we could decide which one of these we liked better, but we made sure to look for something similar in the duty free section at the airport. Of course everything is more mainstream in the airport, but we had carry-on only and didn’t want to invest in shipping something home.In the end we settled on Graham’s 20 year tawny, a white port from Graham’s, a 1998 Krohn vintage, and a Borges Porto 2010 LBV.Now that we know more about port from our tour, we also know that it’s also important to drink a bottle in a timely fashion. Kay and I were both under the impression that you can leave port open like liquor and it will taste fine, but after a quick test at home, Kay feels that our old standby tastes like vinegar compared to the ones above.

We were happy to get a nice little collection to enjoy and savour properly based on our tastings. Overall, we had a very enjoyable food and dining experience in Porto. I highly recommend The Yeatman’s restaurant if you are in town!

Porto, Portugal

Kay has wanted to go to Porto for ages, so every time I searched for weekend trips, I always kept an eye on flights heading there. Usually prices to Portugal from Zurich are too expensive, nearing 500CHF a ticket, but finally I found affordable tickets for late September, booking a short Friday evening to Sunday evening trip.

In order to keep the flights cheap, we did need to transfer in Frankfurt on the way there, which ended up being horrible because our flight from Zurich was delayed and we ended up having to sprint through almost the whole airport in Frankfurt to get to our connecting gate. I nearly died and after the time difference (1 hour) we didn’t arrive to our bed and breakfast until almost one in the morning Swiss time.The weather was covered on Saturday and we had hopes that it would open up, but it remained foggy and grey. Still, we made our way around markets and walked around the city until it was time for our port cellar tour at Ferreira.

With the weather still cloudy, we made a stop at Lello & Irmão Bookstore,  a famous bookstore considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.…and it was pretty darn magnificent.It is rumored that JK Rowling was inspired to start writing Harry Potter in connection to this bookstore. Who knows if that’s true?The unique staircase is also thought to be an inspiration to ones described in the Harry Potter books.Next it was on to a couple churches.We were a little sad that the weather was so gloomy, but you can’t always be lucky with the weather on these short trips. Well, or our long ones either. We actually seem to do better weather wise on weekend trips compared to proper two week holidays…The port winery tour at Ferreira was OK, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The tour guide was alright and the information was good, but it was a large group and the tour was a bit rushed before we were all dropped at the end to try our port selections.After a very quick introduction to our five selections, the guide took the bottles away and left and we were left trying to remember which port was which within our little group doing the larger degustation. We still had a nice time, but next time we will try a different winery just because! 🙂

After the port, we were rather tipsy and tired and the weather was not doing much to energize us. The day ended with weather like below…We ended up walking around for quite a bit looking for a place to eat that inspired us.At least the city looked nicer at night when it was lit up.The next morning though, the sun was out and we were enthused!After breakfast we stopped for a better coffee and Kay was really excited when the sky opened up completely with sunshine and warmth.Who is excited about the day and wants to do everything we skipped on Saturday?? This guy!We decided to head back to the Clérigos Tower and actually climb it this time. It hadn’t seemed worth it the day before, but below was exactly how we imagined Porto!It was a bit funny though. I’d made Kay wear his dress shirt on Sunday because I made lunch reservations at The Yeatman Hotel, a five star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The dress code was “smart casual” and we were both worried that we would be turned away in our jeans.

Well, climbing up the tower without an undershirt under his dress shirt completely soaked Kay. It looked really horrible and I couldn’t help laughing. Before we left the church, he changed back to his T-shirt and we tied his dress shirt to his backpack to try and dry it out before arriving at the restaurant.

Wearing just a sweaty tank top myself, I put on a light long sleeved top in front of the hotel while Kay put his dried dress shirt back on over the T-shirt. It ended up being fine for lunch and we managed to fit in all right.Above was our view from the table at lunch. The entire experience was pure heaven! Me and my handsome man. 🙂After a very long lunch, we made our way back down to the river.We didn’t have that much time before we needed to get to the airport for our flight, but we soaked in a couple more sights.We were also pretty full of food and port by this time!At the airport it was important to buy some port based on what we’d sampled in the winery and restaurants. We had some good advice and decided to pick up four different kinds which I’ll mention in the food post soon.Oh Porto. You tired me out. Our flight back was also delayed, although we didn’t have to transfer on the way home, we also only arrived home after midnight. It’s making for a tired week, but worth it to enjoy these last weekends with Kay before school.

Only five weekends for Kay at home before he’s off to study!

Athens Food Tour

Kay and I had never been on a food tour before Athens, but this was hands down my best decision of the trip.

I wasn’t even thinking about food tours, but I stumbled upon the site Culinary Backstreets while searching for Greek celiac restaurant cards. I realized that they offered food tours, so I emailed them shortly before we left to check if it’s OK to handle a gluten-free diet. They responded quickly with a positive answer, so I booked a tour for us that Wednesday evening, with not too much notice for our Saturday food tour.

The information email said to come with comfortable walking clothes, shoes, and an appetite. I’m always a little nervous about food with my diet and low blood sugar, so I still ate a small cereal bar before we left our place just in case there would be issues finding me gluten free options on the tour. You need to be prepared as a celiac. Kay on the other hand, ate nothing before we left.

When we met up with our guide and fellow food tourers on Saturday at 9:30am. The guide was actually a few minutes late because he was picking up some special gluten-free items for me. I really appreciated that he made the extra effort to pick up alternative options for me on such short notice. He only really had Friday and Saturday morning to prepare for a gluten-free eater!

First stop was breakfast:

Greek rice pudding with cinnamon, Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts and baklava, which unfortunately did have gluten in it. What can you do? When the guide explained the “bite of shame” which is the leftover piece that everyone is too ashamed to take, I pressured them to eat the gluten for me.

In the past, I would take the bite of shame without any shame! I also used the excuse in the tour if something was gluten free that I should take the bite of shame for that item because I can’t eat the other things. It works to my advantage sometimes. 😉

If I couldn’t have the baklava, I was going to go crazy on the other two. The Greek yogurt and honey was SUMPTUOUS. Om nom nom.

The rice pudding was also so delicious. I am such a fan of cinnamon in the morning. The only thing missing at this first place was coffee.

On the way to the second place, our guide stopped at a local bread stand where he explained how lots of Greek can grab a quick morning bite similar to New Yorkers and their bagels. I couldn’t eat this one either, but Kay could enjoy his pretzel.

The second place ended up being a donut place, at which point my hopes started to dampen a bit. I was worried that the whole food tour would be like this.

Look at those donuts… covered in honey. They look so yummy! So gluten-y as well. 🙁

My hopes were lifted though, when the guide gave me a special gluten free cookie from the bakery he’d stopped at earlier that morning. It didn’t look as yummy as the donuts, but I was happy to be included still.

Kay also assured me that the donuts were actually not nearly as sweet as they looked and that compared to our pre-gluten donut escapades in the US, I was not missing out.

Our next stop was a local feta shop:

My excitement perked up. Dairy is on the table again thanks to a recent food test, so I’m all about the cheese again! 🙂

(Photo by Lund Brynilsen)

Who wouldn’t be excited to eat fresh feta made by little old Greek men? Look at that pro!

We tried two kinds, soft and hard. Kay preferred the soft kind, which is almost never exported from Greece, but the hard kind was also extremely tasty.

After our cheese, our guide took us on a tour through the meat and fish markets:

I’ve been to fresh food markets in halls in cities before, but I have never really been to a meat market like this. It was quite an experience: Loud, smelly, a little abrasive and the threat of blood and animal parts flying through the air. I am not sure we would have ventured in on our own, but I’m glad we did.

All around the meat hall, the place was packed with butchers chopping meat and shouting to potential customers. The butchers used wooden blocks, which surprised Kay because they are banned for hygiene reasons in Switzerland.

The butchers also didn’t have much protective gear. Most wore their own clothes and did not use gloves. Some were smoking or drinking takeaway coffee while they worked.

After we passed through the fish hall where we all tried not to get our feet too wet, we arrived at a little tiny hole-in-the-wall place.

I liked this place if not just for the Ouzo at 11 in the morning. 🙂 One of the other girls on the trip did not drink alcohol, so guess who landed the extra “shot of shame” here?

(Photo by Lund Brynilsen)

Here, the guide also slipped the cook some special gluten free bread for me, which you’ll see in some other photos further on. For gluten free, it was a surprisingly nice, normal bread. At first I was wary because I did not believe that it could really be gluten free, but I had no reactions to it later on, so it was the real deal.

I had a different plate from the others here as well. I think they had some meatball type thing which had gluten, so I got seared shrimp instead. My favorite part again was actually the fried cheese.

Finally, on to the coffee place Mokka! It was almost noon and Kay and I had not had any coffee before we left, so I was really looking forward to this!

The English couple on the trip explained that they had already ordered Greek coffee and were told not to stir it, which they hadn’t understood. They stirred and drank and had a horrible experience because Greek coffee is like Turkish coffee, as we found out.

You need to let the coffee sediment sink to the bottom after brewing, so you sweeten the coffee while cooking and then let the whole thing settle and absolutely do not stir or you will get a mouth full of grinds!

Kay makes Turkish coffee at home sometimes. It’s one of the only coffees that we drink sweet with a bit of sugar and kardamom. So I knew that I would be a fan of Greek coffee!

The brewing process, which admittedly is a bit different than how we make our Turkish coffee on the stove:

The brewing tins look the same though:

And the result is a nice, subtly sweet cup of mocha. 🙂

After coffee we walked to Kotzia square by the city hall of Athens where they hold a local food market in the springtime.

Our guide explained that the market is not open like this year round or even all summer. In the summer, it gets far too hot, so everyone leaves and heads to the islands to cool off.

Here we sampled fresh olives and a special kind of black one without salt. They were wonderful! I’m a big olive fan as well.

So much fresh produce for cheap prices. I wish I could do some weekly shopping here!

(Photo by Lund Brynilsen)

The strawberries also smelled heavenly, even if the guide said that they do not taste that great.

Next we landed at a popular local restaurant.

This place was packed. Even with the guide bringing us there, we figured that it must be nice if the locals are going. We tried to come back for dinner here on our last evening and were disappointed to find that it was closed. A Greek pair tried the same thing though, and they were also disappointed to find the restaurant not open.

Here they served tapas-like food with cheese and meat.

This time we finally had some meat!

On the plate in the bottom of the photo was a special cut of camel, which we had never had before. I thought it tasted fine. You are supposed to take the salty edging off and leave it behind before eating.

On the way to the next place, we passed by a spice market.

When we searched for the previous restaurant again, we came through the spice streets again while they were closed and you could still really smell all the strong spices in the street.

The guide also explained a bit about how the city developed without some good city planning, so some of the streets and buildings are very narrow or very strange shapes.

The second to last place was more fast food style. Time for some souvlaki!

No… the gyro below was not for me, but look how tasty with the fries it looks! Mmmm.

I had my safe bread again, but could eat the souvlaki normally with tzatziki. We were warned not to eat too much here before our big meal at the end.

Funny thing… the guide gets feedback from the restaurant owners and the person who owns this place asked, “Your customers, don’t they like my food? Why don’t they ever finish it? What’s wrong?” and the guide had to explain how it is for a food tour and that people are saving space. Everybody is worried about not being able to try everything with all the delicious food stops!

Finally at the last stop, which was the entrance to some kind of inside tunnel mall. The guide explained how lots of places like this developed when the city needed more space and less streets and walkways.

(Photo by Lund Brynilsen)

We definitely never would have come in here to this restaurant. The entrance was a little dark and scary. I am positive that we would not have ventured in here. We would have missed out!

(Photo by Lund Brynilsen)

Here we had a wide array of fish that Kay and I would probably also be intimidated to try. It was great having a guide just order whatever and tell you to try it. 🙂

We also had potato salad and bread.

The others could try the batter-fried calamari while I had the grilled octopus below. The guide said he actually prefers it below rather than deep fried.

Some white fish… fish galore!

And good old grilled feta and tomatoes. Oh my, yes please.

At the “last supper” we could finally stuff ourselves the rest of the way. Kay had been trying not to eat all the gluten-y bites of shame that nobody else wanted and without as much bread as the others, I was also still fairly hungry. We definitely left feeling very full!

I don’t think I can recommend this food tour enough. I felt really well taken care of with my celiac disease. Exceptions cannot be made for everything, but they were very accommodating and I still tried such a wide array of food. Kay of course got to try everything. He found the price a little expensive, but I thought it was fair for a 5.5h guided tour to all these special places. Having a guide speak Greek with the restaurant staff was also really helpful for me and I loved not having to worry about my food choices that day.

I will definitely be looking into tours in other cities that we visit. Have you been on a food tour while traveling?