Lake Garda: Where We Stayed

April 13, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Travel

As I mentioned before, our Lake Garda lodging choice was made based on the list provided me by Mrs. Carousel. Other options that caught my eye included Hotel Cortina and Miro Hotel, but the pictures on the La Vittoria website won me over in the end, combined with their offer to give me a pass to a gym/waterpark for free (I went once and got a massage that was fine, but not great).

I loved our room. It was really big, full of light, and very quiet. We didn’t have a view of the lake, but I appreciated the extra space (Carousel’s room had a view of the lake and was half the size of ours). The price was great, around $100 a night I think. It was very easy to park and unload the suitcases, and when we arrived late, without a phone call or notification, we found the owners enjoying a glass of wine while waiting for us. They welcomed us warmly and showed us quickly up to our room. I didn’t feel like the website made this clear.

There were a few drawbacks to this place. In our room, number 8, the internet was testy and very slow. We had trouble getting passes so we could use the ipad and the iphone simultaneously (because we were grounded due to injury we spent a lot of time just chilling in our room). The biggest drawback for me was how far away we had to park the car to keep it in the private lot overnight. It was nice to get the exercise (a 15-20 walk) but I was always the one who had to do it because my partner-in-crime was down for the count.

La Vittoria is located right on the main thoroughfare, and I think it’s one of the prettiest hotels in the area. I was jealous of the rooms with a balcony AND a view of the lake! Breakfast was on the patio and was my 3rd favorite out of the 4 breakfasts we had during our trip (it was actually really good by American standards, but La Torre and Aemelia were phenomenal). Farther down toward the center of town we heard bands playing, and I liked that we were far enough away that we didn’t have to listen to any of that.

If you decide that Garda is a good place for you (if you want to experience a cross between German and Italian culture this is the place to go!), La Vittoria is a lovely place to stay. The owners and staff were so kind and I hope they continue to be successful!


Lake Garda: What We Did

April 04, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Travel

The last stop on our Italian roadtrip was Lake Garda. An interesting choice, but one I was pushed toward via an internet friend, Mrs. Carousel from Weddingbee. Shortly after she was announced as a new writer for the site, I sent her an email asking if she’d be interested in giving me some advice regarding our trip planning. She didn’t just write back with a sentence or two, she put together a multi-page spreadsheet with itinerary, suggested budget, aguriturismo suggestions, transportation options, and more. It was hands-down one of the nicest things a complete stranger has ever done for me.

Because she loved Lake Garda so much, and because I like the idea of travelling and experiencing places that a local loves, we decided to end our trip in the town of Garda. We had plans to do a day trip to Venice, go see some ruins, do some trips around the lake on a boat, but TH’s hurt leg had us largely confined to our room and the area around the hotel.

My favorite part of this location was when I accidentally bumped into Mrs. Carousel on her wedding day! We were eating breakfast in the hotel lobby the morning after we arrived when a woman walked up and asked if I was a writer for Weddingbee. I was stunned when she told me that she was Carousel’s wedding planner and that Carousel would be arriving shortly from the hair salon. She wasn’t just staying in the same hotel, we were literally staying in rooms adjacent to each other! Somehow, the bride-to-be and I had managed to book the exact same hotel for the weekend, without even knowing it. I found out when she would be arriving, and went over to surprise her and say hello. It was so fun!

She was waiting for her mom to get there before stepping into her dress, and after we talked for a few minutes (and got over the shock of seeing each other in person!) she was kind enough to invite us to the ceremony and cocktail hour held later that afternoon. The ceremony wouldn’t work with our schedule, but I sheepishly agreed to stop by at some point, feeling a little bit like a wedding crasher. Ha!

We decided to say hello at the cocktail hour, held at a hotel that was just a few minutes drive from our place. It was located right next to one of those medevial times type places (yes, they have those in Italy as well!) and while the bride and groom were away doing portraits, we witnessed a sword fight intended to convince all of us that we simply must come over and pay a few euros to see who the victor would be (none of us were swayed).

Carousel’s dress was custom made. Why does it feel like everything is better in Europe? My SIL’s dress was custom made as well! Read more →

Portofino and Cinque Terre

March 26, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Travel

Portofino and Vernazza (one of the cities of Cinque Terre) are without a doubt the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. There is nothing like this little corner of Italy, and if you are planning a trip to Italy I urge you with every fiber of my being to make visiting this area a priority. Yes, it’s so good that it merits the use of the melodramatic phrase every fiber of my being. La Torre will always be my favorite place to stay in Italy, due to the food, the tucked away location, and the story behind it, but the Cinque Terre region will forever sit at the very top of my recommended places to see before you die.

Unfortunately That Husband injured himself right before we packed up the car and drove toward Portofino (he has recurring problems with one of his tendons that pop up every few years), so we weren’t able to see and do as much as we intended. In some ways this was good, because we took the time to really enjoy and soak in what we were seeing instead of rushing to get to the next location. It’s never fun to see your spouse in pain though, and watching him limp along was really heartbreaking. We’re being really careful in our Thailand plans to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

First up, Portofino, approximately 84 km north of Vernazza (which was going to be our one and only Cinque Terre stop for the day).

We ate at Nicola’s Pizzeria Portofino. TH had Foccacia pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and cheese sauce and I ordered a side salad. The restaurant had a frustrating policy that didn’t allow us to order just one thing and split it, we each had to have something. The total cost for the meal came out to 35 euros, proving that the vendors in the area are doing a fantastic job at extracting as much as possible from the tourists coming through the area.

We weren’t originally going to go to Portofino. I was wasting time on Pinterest when I saw my friend pin this image, and realized the location was in Italy. I looked it up on a map, realized how close it was to the Cinque Terre, and immediately adjusted our plans so that I could  go to that very same spot and take a picture of my own. It meant ditching TH on the path for a little bit, as he limped slowly toward me, but he very kindly urged me to go ahead without him so we would have enough time to get to Vernazza before we lost all of our light.
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Babycakes, San Diego

March 20, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Adventures, Travel

On the night we arrived in San Diego we threw a little bachlorette party for the bride, heading downtown to eat dinner, and ending up at a cupcake bar called Babycakes. I don’t call it a cupcake bar because of the variety (though it does have something like a dozen delicious choices), but because it’s an actual bar! None of us drink, so the alcohol wasn’t important to us, but the place had much more of a nightclub feel than a traditional cupcake shop. This was a really good fit for us.

We made the bride wear a crown, button, and sash, and she also had to do tasks, like yell out in the street that she was getting married, or let us all take a picture of her so we could cover Facebook with her picture.

The group, minus the three girls who were driving in from Utah and arrived later.

The bride had a brilliant idea as we were sitting down to eat our cupcakes. We each set a cupcake down in front of us, and took a bite. Then we slid our plate over to the next person, received a new plate from the person on our right, and took another bite. We all loved tasting each one and choosing our favorite, and I’m looking forward to a group setting where I can do cupcake roundtable again in the future!

I think my favorite was the signature “Babycake” cupcake (Marble Cake w/ Chocolate Chips & Cream Cheese). I know Em has written about this place in the past too. Go there, it’s delicious.

I usually like to write about the places I ate/things I did while travelling, but this was one of the few times during the weekend that I ate! (Seriously.) It was a jam-packed weekend and I spent far too much time eating chocolate or nuts in our hotel room before rushing off to the next event (though I loved every single thing we did and wouldn’t do it any other way). The rehearsal dinner was at Pizza Nova, and I loved the white pizza and artichoke dip. On my way out of town, I met up with reader/friend Erin for brunch at Naked Cafe, which was definitely a highlight of the weekend for me, and I really liked my Green Transcendence Wrap.

I think I’m going to have to plan a road trip down to San Diego so I can spend some time exploring the food, the La Jolla caves, Balboa park, and some of the other highlights of the area. I don’t regret spending most of my time with these two doing stuff like this though. :)

La Torre

February 29, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Travel

Right now I’m in the middle of planning our Thailand trip set for this September (is this seriously real life?) and while researching a place to stay I find myself repeating in my mind “I want La Torre, I just want to stay in La Torre again.” I don’t know if a La Torre experience exists in Thailand, but I’m not going to stop researching until I find something as close to it as possible.

While planning our trip I emailed back and forth with a girl who has spent time living in Italy, and she suggested I look into staying at an agriturismo at some point during our trip. Agriturismi are working farms described really well by

Agriturismo – a combination of the words for “agriculture” and “tourism” in Italian – is a style of vacationing in farm house resorts codified into Italian law in 1985. An agriturismo vacation is suitable for the whole family and some places even be very romantic or luxurious. An Italian agriturismo will usually serve foods to guests prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or at least locally. Some will allow the guest to actually participate in the activities surrounding the farm. Despite the rural nature of the lodging, one might expect a rustic experience; yet many agriturismi (the plural form of agriturismo) feature rather luxurious accommodation as well as swimming pools.

A farm out in the middle of nowhere that would serve me homemade food grown on the property and in the surrounding area? Hello dream vacation experience, nice to meet you. Unfortunately all of the agristurismi my friend recommended were unavailable during our available dates. I spent hours and hours researching, and decided to take a chance on a tiny place in an area of Tuscany known as Bagni di Lucca called La Torre.  Paolo and Laura quit their 9-5 office jobs, bought a run-down property in the middle of the Tuscan countryside, and spent years restoring the property to its present state. As if the whole quit-your-job-and-start-a-bed-and-breakfast part of the story wasn’t romantic enough, they were actually married in the small ancient chapel on the property in 2005.

As you already know from my opening paragraph, La Torre was heaven and I want every vacation experience to be an exact replica of that marvelous time from now on. I hope my pictures can do it justice in some small way.

The view from the property

The building where our room was located

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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