Category: Food & Drink

Italy Day 2: When in Rome, eat like the Romans

In truth it was a 1/2 day in Rome (because we woke up at 1pm)! And that was only because Amir woke us all up. This jet lag is no joke. Especially with kids. Fortunately there’s great coffee. And wine.

Lots of sunlight and sounds from the street

We reserved a 3 hour walking food tour from 5-8pm but had a few hours to kill beforehand. Fortunately with three kids under 6, getting out the door clean, dressed and fed is guaranteed to eat up at least an hour on the best day when everyone cooperates. At least they weren’t ready for breakfast yet – likely because they ate every strawberry and drank a liter of milk somewhere around 3am this morning.

First stop: Piazza Navona which is built on top of the Stadio di Domiziano, the only known brick Roman sporting venue (circa 80 AD). In its prime, it seated 30,000 spectators. It’s been described as a scaled down version of Circus Maximus. Today there are three fountains sitting in the “field” while the footprint of the stands is now occupied by apartments and shops.

We walked to a small restaurant guaranteed to have pizza and a decent house red… to our delight they had high chairs and a closet to store our stroller. I’ve been amazed lately back home at all the facilities advertising to families then not having high chairs or changing tables. While we haven’t seen many families with multiple kids, Rome does a good job welcoming our circus.

After breakfast/lunch, we completed our traditional stop at a local toy store. We’ve had luck in the past with buying a few toys while on vacation rather than trying to bring them. European toys are higher quality, made of wood not plastic, and built to last for generations. Across Italy there’s a culture of reuse and minimization of waste. I’ll have to save my explanation of the trash collection system for another post… perhaps if I can snag a photo of the tiny trash trucks.

We booked the food tour through AirBnB. As I’ve mentioned before, we typically book our lodging there and have come to love the “Excursions” offered through the site as well. You have to sort through them to avoid the super tourist-trap type stuff, but that’s not hard to do when your husband is essentially a travel agent.

Toys are arranged by ages

Alessandro (Alex) was our esteemed guide for the day. Single and living alone in Rome, he made a point to tell me most Italians don’t think he’s Italian thanks to his bright blue eyes gifted to him by his grandmother. He’s a charmer – a good fit for the role.

Taste 1: Porchetta & Wine We entered a small shop with a roast pig in the window and 1000 red wine bottles lining the walls. Alex knew the guys working there, and with the wave of a hand, 10 half sandwiches appeared. The pork is stuffed with rosemary, cooked all night then gently shaved and sandwiched between the fresh bread. A solid first stop.

My hand is hiding the pig head

Taste 2: Suppli Typical of Roman cuisine, they are balls of rice with tomato sauce, stuffed with a chunk of mozzarella in the middle, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. Everyone loved these. We wanted seconds.

Taste 3: Potato Pizza He ordered margarita pizza for us as well, but the potato pizza was the real winner. Consisting of crust, thinly sliced potatos, olive oil and just enough cheese, this hit a perfect savory balance.

Unveiling of the pizzas

Taste 4: Friend Artichokes (Carciofi Alla Giudia) Unique to the old Jewish Quarter, you’ll find them on the menu of every restaurant in this little area. Crispy on the outside – there’s a taste reminiscent of potato chips. Bite deeper in, and everything is soft and juicy. It’s a tactile experience as much as a taste adventure.

Fried artichokes

Taste 5: Gunther Gelato I was delighted to reach this last stop, not just for the amazing flavor selection, but to finally stop hearing, “When are we getting ice cream?” Pro tip: Don’t tell the kids there’s gelato on the tour, especially if it’s not happening for three hours. I picked coconut in a cone but ended up eating #1BigBrother’s chocolate after he experienced a meltdown due to his melting gelato.

Rome is almost better by night than by day thanks to the smart lighting that brings these ancient ruins to life. To close out the day, we headed to the Pantheon which closed hours earlier, but had a full piazza of on-lookers, hawkers peddling glowing toys and teenagers singing. It was a great way to close the tour. We said goodbye to the other family in our group (Americans stationed in Roda, Spain), and thanked Alex for his hospitality and expertise.

The Pantheon at night

I have to admit that wearing #1LittleSister most of the day did a number on my back (getting old sucks), so tomorrow we’re considering a golf cart tour of some outer areas of the city. If you remember from Jamaica, #1BigBrother just loves a good golf cart. I can’t wait to see his excitement tomorrow.

Buona notte,


Italy Day 1: The (long) Road to Rome

Believe it or not we’ve made this trip before. It was May 2018, and it was the last trip we took before I started blogging about said trips. The original purpose of these posts was to create a sort of digital scrapbook – goal achieved. But they also create a handy record of trip details – favorite restaurants, hidden softplays (I’m looking at you Heathrow). So alas, despite having visited Rome and Florence previously, we’re doing this from scratch. I can’t remember anything from last month nevertheless 2018.

Last time we did a transatlantic flight, we were Team Louka Party of 3. Now, as if infertility was never even a word in our household, we’re Party of 5. Kids ages 6, 3, and 15 months). And while we got to skip packing any formula this time around, packing for this trip still required some legitimate planning.

We ended up adding a few new pieces of gear to our travel arsenal. A GB Pockit+ collapsible stroller can fit in the overhead bin and ensures we can make it through security and fit it in our rental car for the (spoiler alert) Tuscany portion of our trip. And while the GB Pockit isn’t nearly the workhorse of our CitiMini, we still got some stroller clips for attaching small bags.

Add to that arsenal a TOBIQ family travel bag (separate compartments for each kid), and we were more mobile than you’d expect.

I also dug out the good old Boba baby carrier – 6 years and three big babies later, it’s still going strong. That gave us some added flexibility for when #1BigBrother decided he was over walking.

She was more thrilled than this, I promise.

All of us enjoyed not having to share our tv screens with anyone else. I particularly enjoyed 2.5 glasses of champagne as #1BabySister slept in the bulkhead chair for 3 beautiful, consecutive hours. On British Airways and many other airlines, you can reserve a bassinet for your baby.

Well that’s about all I can muster tonight. I can barely keep my eyes open and need to make sure I get to bed before everyone wakes up in the middle of the night. Wish us luck as we explore Rome tomorrow!


Argentina Day 7: Rainbows, Rain & Chocolate

Yesterday I went to sleep feeling as if I were sleeping under the stars, and this morning I awoke to a welcoming rainbow just outside our window overlooking the lake.

Good morning my sweet rainbow

If you read our travel blogs regularly, you might recall that a year and a half ago we were in Rome, Italy. We had just lost our second baby at just shy of 13 weeks. It was especially cruel as we’d gone through IVF to conceive #1Toddler, and this was what the infertility world calls a “spontaneous pregnancy.”

Unfortunately she wasn’t healthy, and wasn’t meant to come home with us. Losing her was gut-wrenching and felt cruel. Why be given such a gift only to have it taken from you? While in Rome, we honored her by releasing pink roses into the River Tiber with The Vatican in the distance.

But this morning I awoke here in Bariloche, Argentina, 20 weeks pregnant and feeling the kicks of our little boy, also the product of science and persistence. A baby born after a loss is known as a rainbow baby. A loss can never be replaced, but it feels so good to be adding to our family. Thank you Argentina for the nod to our rainbow.

Today delivered rain and temperatures in the high 50s just as forecast. We stayed in bed and in pajamas drinking coffee and indulging in a little screen time for all.

We rallied around 1:30pm and headed to Bariloche Center to pick up our professional photo from the ski lift yesterday and start our chocolate hopping.

Sometimes that touristy photo is worth it

Stop #1 on the chocolate tour – Rapanui Chocolate. Founded in 1948 by an Italian fleeing the ravages of war, Rapanui is one of the oldest chocolate factories and stores in Bariloche.

Vanilla waffle with strawberries, bananas, vanilla ice cream and chocolate

Not only can you purchase chocolate pieces like bonbons, Rapanui also offers sit down service featuring waffles, crepes, gelato and coffee.

TeamLouka enjoys Rapanui waffles

We snagged a seat with a view of the indoor ice skating rink located within the store.

People kept crashing into our window which #1Toddler found hysterical

After Rapanui we headed to Mamuschka to buy some presents for some unnamed people back home. Most of the chocolate shops offer free samples while you wait in line, so be vigilant.

Bombones at Mamuschka

After completing our purchases at Mamuschka, we crossed the street and entered La Reina Chocolate to get some take home treats for dessert tonight.

Marbled chocolate at Reina Chocolate
“Chocolate heart pwease”
Bon bons and jellies at Reina Chocolate

After our chocolate tour, we stopped by KPlay arcade to unwind and hopefully snag a stuffed animal for #1Toddler.

KPlay at Bariloche Center

KPlay features a giant sized claw machine, Peppa Pig riding game, numerous racing games and skeeball.

Selection of games at KPlay

After our afternoon of chocolate and games, we stopped by the grocery store for a few essentials and headed back to the house to make pizza and light the fireplace. Sometimes it’s good to slow down a bit.


Argentina Day 6: Cerro Campanario Ski Lift, Sendero de los Arrayanes and Patagonia Cervecería

Last night I fell asleep under the stars with the help of our panoramic bedroom windows. The weather forecast promised to be gorgeous today and did not disappoint.

The ascent at Cerro Campanario

Small children can safely sit on an adult lap

First stop, riding the chair lift at Cerro Campanario, the mountain directly across from our AirBnB.

The chair lift takes you up to a mountain top cafe and overlook. The lift is a typical ski lift – slow and accommodating for nearly everyone. Small children, elderly folks with canes, we saw a mix. Tickets are just 500 peso ($9) per person, and children under 5 are free.

The café at the top has indoor and outdoor seating

Ice cream any time, any place

The cafe at the peak offers both food and drinks. We opted for beef, chicken and cheese empanadas with café con leche and fresh fruit juice. There’s also pizza and a generous selection of pastries and desserts.

Panoramic view from atop Cerro Campanario

Mama and baby girl

Your ticket thankfully includes the ride back down as well. We were sad for the journey to end, but the trip down was even more impressive than the way up.

Descent view at Cerro Campanario

After Cerro Campanario, we knew #1Toddler would be looking to nap. She almost fell asleep on the chair lift down. We set out for Sendero de los Arrayanes, a park with flat trails that’s low aerobic demand and stroller friendly. Most everything is within a 5-10 mile radius in Bariloche, so it didn’t take long to find.

You can take your pick of walking sticks at the start of the trail. The entire trail is roughly 1.5 miles. It’s fairly flat with a good mix of inclines and declines in each direction.

About half way down the trail there’s an offshoot that allows you to explore el Bosque de los Arrayanes (Forrest of the Chilean Myrtles). These trees require a specific habitat and soil and are extremely fragile. They’re known for their unique twisted branches, narrow trunks with irregular white spots, and cinnamon-colored bark that peels off as the tree grows. Many are over 300 years old.

El Bosque de los Arrayanes

El Bosque de los Arrayanes

At the end of the trail there’s a rocky beach with flat water and lapping waves. #1Toddler must have thrown 100+ rocks into the lake.


“Look mama a green one!”

Finding the perfect rock

After Sendero de los Arrayanes we were of course hungry again. Prior to the trip, Amir scopes out the local breweries (there are a ton) and decided Patagonia Cervecería was a must.

Patagonia Belgian Red

You can’t get more “locally grown” than these hops

The menu was exactly what we wanted – charcuterie, burgers, a few salads. #1Toddler and I split the “Las Brisas” board, while Amir enjoyed a burger.

Las Brisas board

Patagonia Cervecería is doing right what Richmond just can’t seem to figure out. The atmosphere is incredible. Bariloche had amazing views of the water, and everywhere you turn you get to experience them. Back home, we have the beautiful James River, but nay a single brewery (maybe Legend) capitalizing on that perfect view.

Casual seating and a walk-up bar

Restaurant seating with full service

Casual outdoor seating at Patagonia Cervecería

Today was amazing. And I’m stuffed. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for 60 degrees and rain, so looks like we’ll be doing some indoor chocolate factory hopping. Oh darn.


Argentina Day 4: Learning to bake alfajores and exploring Recoleta Cemetery

Amir asked me this morning why I love Eva Perón so much… I had to stop and think… and correct him. Love isn’t the right word – it’s more that she fascinates me.

Eva Perón grew up a poor, illegitimate child and moved to Buenos Aires at age 15 to pursue a career in acting and television. She struggled for years until she met then Secretary of Labour, Juan Perón. They married a year later. He became president of Argentina in 1946.

“Evita” as the country would come to call her, was dichotomous in every sense. Elegant and underprivileged. Benevolent and self-promoting. Divisive and unifying. As a woman, she pushed her way (and coaxed people into inviting her) into social spheres and roles no other First Lady had. She even ran for Vice President. She was adored and despised. She was far from perfect but never claimed to be. Maybe I identify with her.

Today we visited her family grave at Cementario Recoleta. But first, let’s talk about our milanesas lunch and the delicious cookies we made.

Milanesa Patagónica

Milanesa Napolitana

Milanesa is a traditional Argentinian dish which borrows from Italian roots. They take a variety of meats – veal, pork, chicken – pound it thin and bread it. This particular restaurant, La Casa de la Milanesa, treated the milanesa like a pizza crust, offering a selection of toppings with a side of fries. Delicious.

Andra Bakery, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Our next stop was at Andra Bakery to take a “clase de pastelería,” or a pastry class. We’ve come to enjoy the “experiences” you can find on AirBnB, so when we saw the chance to bake our own traditional alfajores, we jumped.

Aspirational models

For $40 per person, you get very personal instruction from the owner. She limits each class to three people, so your lesson is essentially private.

Over two hours, you make three different cookies, each with a slight variation on the traditional alfajores.

You weigh your bowl as you add ingredients, taking care to tare the scale along the way. You mix the dough with your bare hands, then chill it in the refrigerator while mixing the next batch. The cook time is short, and the ROI high. We walked out with two whole boxes of cookies, new knowledge and the joy of a unique experience.

After cookies at Andra Bakery, we walked two blocks to enter El Cementario de la Recoleta. I never knew there was a list of Top 10 Cemeteries in the world, but Recoleta is on it.

Many famous Argentinians are buried here including Eva Perón, the founder of the Argentinian Navy and numerous past presidents.

While for most of its existence it’s been restricted to the notable and wealthy in society, for a few short years Recoleta was open to public burials. As a result you’ll find some very common people resting next to Argentinian greats.

Eva Perón is buried here, despite a huge push for her to be returned to the small humble village where she was raised.

Tomb for the Duarte Family and Eva Perón

Sadly Eva Perón died at the age of 33 from what most believe was cervical cancer. Her untimely death makes her rise to fame so much more interesting to me as I’m left wondering what she could have accomplished with more years.

Inside one of the neglected tombs

After Recoleta and a brief siesta back at the apartment, we took an Uber to La Estancia, a meat lovers paradise. It’s akin to the Brazilian steakhouse, but is much more personalized and less mass market.

We started with a caprese salad, beef empañadas and some fresh bread.

For our main course, we ordered a mixed barbecue of lamb, pork ribs, sausage, suckling pig and beef.

It arrived steaming, snapping and crackling on a bed of hot coals. Our experienced waiter had covered my bag in the chair beside me with a yellow linen. When our dish arrived, it was then that I understood why.

We’re packing up tonight for our flight to Bariloche tomorrow. Bariloche is in the Patagonia region and from photos most resembles Switzerland meets Breckinridge. We’ll see if the photos hold true.