Toasty Scottsdale, AZ

IMG_9129With only a few days to escape the cold weather on the east coast, the hub & I decided take a trip over the long President’s Day weekend. We only had a few prerequisites – warm weather & a direct flight. With that in mind, Scottsdale sounded like absolute heaven.

Unlike most of our adventures, we decided to take this one easy – however, the hub did say “maybe we can hike up CamelBack mountain one day?”. I think he forgot I was pregnant, cause honestly I am cramping up & out of breath just walking down the street in Boston. Needless to say, I did not partake in his little hike.

The trip was pure bliss. The hotel we stayed at was absolutely out of this world perfecto. The Sanctuary Resort & Spa was not only a quick trip from the airport but out of this world in service, food & accommodations.  From the minute we arrived we were loving it. They whisked us away in a golf cart to our room with a view to die for, the pool was not only the perfect temp but the servers were on point & the food literally made my every day. Their homemade almond butter & peach smoothie was ordered every morning (recipe to come, still trying to get it just right) and for lunch the charred shishito peppers were in my belly 2minutes flat from when they came out.

We did have one night out on the town – well not really town, but outside of our hotel. We made a quick trip to the Desert Botanical Gardens for a sunset show of the Chihuly exhibit (glass sculptures that light up when dark) – it was beautiful! Then we were off to dinner at Tarbell’s – where an Iron Chef winner creates the swanky dishes.

The following night the hub & I decided to keep it low key & get massages at our hotel spa. The spa was zenned out like no other – it was wonderful. After our much needed pampering we went to dinner at the hotel restaurant, Elements. Each dish held its own, from the octopus appetizer to the homemade raspberry sorbet. Not to mention the pepper – I swear the pepper that was placed in the olive oil to dip bread in was AMAZE too!

Anywho…the last day the fearless hub did decide to hire a 3x iron man athlete to run up Camelback mountain with him. Who knows, I guess that was his idea of a great morning. I on the other hand was sipping on my morning smoothie poolside 🙂

Scottsdale you were wonderful, until next time! xx

Nantucket Love

nantucket

First off, yes I am still having a love affair with my Anthropologie hat! I would link it up or for that matter buy 2 more for myself to have as backup – but they no longer have it, fail.

Anywho…on to my next obsession, Nantucket. My hub surprised me for our one year anniversary with this lovely getaway for Labor Day weekend (I know, he is a keeper). We escaped the city last Thursday morning & drove the ever so quick <1.5hr drive to Hyannis for our ferry to the island. The Hy-Line high speed cruise took only one hour – but with food & cocktails aboard, we already felt like we were on vacation!

When we arrived, my expectations of Nantucket were immediately exceeded. The cutest shops, restaurants & houses adorned with grey cedar shingles were everywhere as soon as we stepped off the ferry. Brick roads led us through the cutest town & finally to our hotel, 76 Main. This hotel completely got us, from the wonderful staff to the BYOB happy hour (around their fire pit), & to top it off they even had a ‘stretch, sauna, sip & cycle’ package – yes, this hotel was made for us!

After dropping off our bags, we freshened up & headed out the door to get a quick drink & appetizer at Boarding House before heading to dinner. CRU was exceptional for dinner. The blue crab & Nantucket lobster cocktails were both out of this world, the fresh oyster selection had me only wanting more & to top off the night their blackberry cabernet sorbet was AMAZING! Lets just say I had this more then one night (yes, I went back for more)!

Continue reading for the rest of my Nantucket adventure…

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It’s a Bachelorette & Baby Shower Kinda Weekend

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Two of my dear friends are hosting special events this weekend – and thankfully both celebrations are in sunny Florida! I am overjoyed that I am able to attend all the festivities. A few days with each of the ladies will be just right!

I take off in a few hours and back in a week, so in the meantime make sure to follow The Sparkled Sidewalk’s adventures on Instagram!

Click here to follow @thesparkledsidewalk !!

P.S. Pardon my choice of image, but it was the only image that was both bachelorette & baby related that I could find – pretty fitting I would say!

P.P.S. I had to share…when googling bachelorette & babies I found this. Can’t even handle my man Jimmy Kimmel. He’s the best!

Santorini

santorini

A quick flight from Athens led us to sunny Santorini & boy was it good timing! After trekking around Europe for a few weeks I was excited to put my feet up, read &  relax at our last destination. The car ride to our hotel in Oia was short & were were greeted by the Canaves staff with drinks (perfect way to start any beach vaca)! After sipping on some fruity beverages, we got taken to our room & hello paradise – private pool & patio with views of sparkling water from every angle!

The next day we were ready for…nothing! All we wanted to do was unwind, so we parked ourselves at the hotel pool, read for most of the day & finally scooted ourselves to our room to freshen up before a ‘Greek Night’ at our hotel restaurant. I was engulfed with Greek music, wine & amazing food from the beginning to the end of our dinner – Santorinian fava, grilled octopus salad, Greek salad & caponata were just a few heavenly dishes that we had!

Continue reading to find out more details on our Santorini adventure…

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Athens

athens

Finally, getting to my Athens post! Santorini was beyond relaxing so I put down the computer & picked up my kindle!

We arrived in Athens late in the afternoon, so check-in was easy at the Hotel Grande Bretagne. We quickly went up to their rooftop pool & found a comfy seat to relax in. A few drinks & a 15minute nap later the hub and I were ready for dinner. The hotel directly next door to our hotel (King George) is known for their rooftop views & restaurant so we took the long walk (jk) over there for dinner.

Tudor Hall was amazing. The Acropolis was literally in perfect sight & when the sky got dark it lit up! Not only was the view top notch, but our dinner was too – greek salad with caper leaves, grilled octopus, scorpion fish & blueberry sorbet! The meal was the perfect intro to the Greek cuisine portion of the trip.

The following day we woke up bright & early to begin our full day tour. We started with the change of guards at the Parliament (right by hotel) and then we were off  to the Panathenaic Stadium. It was noted as a great workout site open for runners early mornings, so the hub & I hit up this old Olympic Stadium for a quick workout. To our surprise, we were the only people there! This is a must do for anyone visiting Athens – when can you ever say that you worked out where the Olympics took place!?!

The next location was to visit was the Acropolis. There was a a lot of restoration being done on all of the buildings – supposedly it’s going on for the next 60 years! Regardless, it was a sight to see!! After seeing massive structures from centuries ago with a view from above the entire city we headed to The Temple of Olympian Zeus for a few photos & then Lycabettus Hill for another stunning view. If  you are hungry, have a snack on the top of the mountain or save your appetite and head to the shops right by Ancient Agora. Huge market with anything your heart desires & tons of restaurants lining the streets. After you fill your belly, head inside Ancient Agora to get the full tour of the site. The last stop before we headed to the airport was the Acropolis Museum. Wowza, was this a beautiful museum – when you first walk in you are above Grecian Baths, so make sure to look below your feet! Take your time & walk around the entire museum, it is one of the best!

With only 36 hours in Athens, I am pretty proud of what we accomplished! Next time we head to Greece a few more days in Athens will be a must!

Venice

venice

A 2 hour train ride from Florence led us to a whimsical town that seems to be ‘floating’ on water. From our train we jumped on a taxi boat that docked up right to our hotel, Hotel Danieli. No cars or scooters allowed, just boats in Venice! I quickly realized that Venice was going to be an easy place to fall in love with!

With our room not ready to check in we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at our hotel’s rooftop spot – Terrazza Danieli. We had clear views for days & food that was beyond yum – especially good was the seared tofu with olive oil sorbet (yes, you read that right)! The light lunch gave us enough pep in our step to throw our bags in our room & get lost in the city!

Curves, turns & tiny alleys send you in every which way. You go up & down over countless bridges that bring you to a new spots around every corner – shops, food & gondola’s everywhere you look. No need to fret if you get a tad bit lost, there are signs directing you to the major landmarks & friendly Venetian’s that will help you if you need.

The day of casualness led us to a planned dinner with a family that we met in the Tuscan countryside – they were staying at Castiglion del Bosco, we all clicked & our schedules overlapped in Venice, so we penciled in a time to meet (how fun)! The drinks, food & company was perfecto! The restaurant, A Beccafico, is not on the water, but that is okay with tasty food like this – Mussels baked in broth with a filo top, fresh made pasta, scallops served on shells & sea bream marinated in orange!

As we parted ways with our new found friends the hub & I walked through Piazza San Marco. Hundreds of people & multiple bands playing at once with wine being poured & dessert being served – how could you not want a night cap? The bands were battling & the people were cheering along, such a fun way to end a great night!

A workout along The Grand Canal was needed after a few to many glasses of wine the night before. Afterwards we freshened up, we jumped on the public transportation (a boat bus) and headed to Murano & Burano. Two unique towns that are too cute to be missed. Murano is known for their glass blowing skills – so try to get a private tour of one of the facilities. However, don’t feel pressured to buy a piece, they are crazy expensive! Burano is another quick boat bus stop away. The cute shops, good food & colorful houses make it worth a visit!

The last day in Venice we were planning on hitting up all the museums & churches, however we opted on another relaxing day! Hey, Venice was so beautiful that we did not want to be inside! We walked around the city aimlessly for hours, had some sorbet, took a private boat ride & ended up having dinner right on The Grand Canal at one of the many spots you can pick from! To me, it was the perfect way to spend my last day in Venezia!

Venice offers so much, and I am sure I will make it back here!

Goodbye Venice, goodbye Italy!

Florence

florenceGoodbye Tuscan countryside, hello Florence!

The drive to Florence was another peaceful drive, and with a quick stop in Siena we knocked out another place to visit! Siena is a quaint town with only a few attractions which we navigated our way around easily. Some italian lunch in our belly & scoops of sorbet to distract from the pounding sun made it fun to walk around the endless curvy roads.

After a few hours in Siena we kept on trucking to our hotel in Fiesole (town right outside of Florence with insane views looking over the main city)! We arrived to a 600+ year old mansion called Villa San Michele that Michelangelo designed (yes, Michelangelo!)!  The views were crazy insane from every window! We stayed at the hotel for the first night & dined at their terrace restaurant – the food was impeccable! Baby lobster, shrimp, fresh grilled veggies & homemade sorbet!

The following day we were in over our heads! We met our guide & then packed in a full day of tours & site-seeing. Check out our itinerary below:

  • Galleria dell’ Academia – This is where my boy ‘David’ resides. A statute that you always hear & see in books & life, so this is a must! No pictures allowed so make sure to turn your camera on silent (hehe)!
  • Procellino Market – If you want to shop for a real leather bag or some cute adornments this is a good market to catch! Make sure to rub the bronze wild boar statute’s foot for good luck, it is housed at one side of the market!
  • The Uffizi Gallery – Countless number of famous works are under this roof. It surely be on your list to accomplish before you leave Florence. Be warned that no pictures are allowed to be taken & no AC – yes NO AC! So we swiftly went through the museum in record time, but with our private guide we we were certain to not miss a thing! (also…I set the alarm off getting to close to a painting, so no need to be alarmed if you do too!)
  • The Pitti Palace – Another spot that should not be missed. We really crammed this one in!
  • Piazza della Signoria – Holds the fake ‘David’ and other sculptures that you must check out!
  • Piazza della Repubblica –  The heart of expensive shopping, find all your brand names here – as well as a merry go round! We happened to be in Florence during their fashion week, so it was a bit more chaotic than the norm.
  • Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – Green, pink & white marble construct the outside of the cathedral! Worth a look inside, but the outside is what really grabbed me!
  • Ponte Vecchio – The oldest & cutest bridge in Florence with great shops & good views! The water, not so blue, but hey at least you have some rowers in the river getting a workout in!
  • San Lorenzo Market – Keep on shopping at this destination or if your feet hurt buy a new pair of kicks, that is what it is known for here!
  • Vasari Cooridor – Make sure to look up when you walk! There a private walkway for a pretty powerful person from way back when – he didn’t want to walk with the common folk so he created a private path for himself (pretty money, eh?)!

Lastly, make sure to pop in to get some gelato at Gelateria Perché No. The soya hazulneut gelato had me at hello & within the 12 hours we were in the city I had stopped at this place for breakfast and lunch, so clearly you must try!

Anywho…our days in Florence were amazing & I can only recommend staying longer if you have the time! We would have loved to roam the streets for a few more days but our schedule was too tight, next time Firenze!

Tuscan Countryside…Castiglion del Bosco

tuscan countryside

Rome to Tuscany, what a difference! Rome was chaotic (and fun) but our stay in the Tuscan countryside was all about relaxation. Our hotel was in the middle of a 4,000 acre estate, tucked away for no one to find!

After our pit stop in Todi we kept on heading to the countryside of Tuscany. An hour uphill on a windy road led us to the most breathtaking view & hotel of our trip thus far! Castiglion del Bosco made us feel welcomed upon arrival with warm smiles, fresh mint water (yes, please!) & a tour of the estate. Bocce court, outside gym, infinity pool, church, organic garden, a ‘street’ that housed the restaurants. Finally, we were shown to our suite which was immaculate!

With all the wonderful amenities at our fingertips my hub & I knew that no day trips away from this place were in the cards for us – we took full advantage of the hotel and the activities they had to offer.  Just as the amenities were amazing, the activities were out of this world…below are the activities we participated in (these are just a few they offered, the list to pick from was expansive for both kids & adults):

  • “Boot camp” training session with a MMA fighter in the hills
  • Archery lessons with a national champion
  • Painting in the vineyards with an established artist (she was in books!)
  • Night safari in a Land Rover
  • Photography lesson with a local well-known photographer
  • Market night on their ‘street’ with vendors, food & drinks flowing
  • Wine tasting with a sommelier that ended in a case of wine purchased (hello hangover)

I do not think I could be anymore positive about this leg of our adventure. It was just what the doctor ordered after full days of tours and sightseeing in multiple cities. We will come back here without a doubt, can’t wait to bring family and future kids back to this amazing place!

Miss you already Castiglion del Bosco!

Lunch in Todi (pit stop on our way to Tuscany)

todi

The drive from Rome to Tuscany was less than three hours, simple! However, we took a short detour  & popped on over to a small town called Todi. My hub spent a few months studying abroad in Todi years ago, so we surely had to say hello to the family & I had to see the town he always chats about! The family was pure – living on a chicken farm, harvesting grapes & living life, to me, seems like paradise. We were welcomed with open arms, one of the sons poured us homemade wine straight from the barrel & asked us to stay for lunch as soon as we arrived. When he mentioned that lunch was going to include wild asparagus I knew we had to stay! The dish is called Bosciaolo, and is a traditional pasta dish in the region. It includes fresh farm eggs, pig cheek, freshly pressed EVOO, wild asparagus, chili flakes & pasta. This was by far one of our best dishes in Italy to date!

If you are intrigued to whip up this dish then follow the directions below…

  1. Cut up 1C wild asparagus, sauté in 2T EVOO – lower heat & let simmer
  2. Dice up 1/4C pig cheek (is that in our grocery stores?) and sauté – add to asparagus when crisp (in place of pig cheek you could use thick slices of bacon)
  3. Cook pasta for four people, drain when ready & add back into the pot (leave a little of the pasta water at the bottom)
  4. Stir in the asparagus, pig cheek (or bacon), 3 fresh eggs, 1t chili red pepper flakes & salt/pepper – continuously stir till eggs cook

To serve, top with fresh parmesan cheese & presto – this is a traditional Italian meal that will leave you wanting more!

Nutritional Info Per Serving (Serves 4): Calories do not count when in Italy! 

What a charming city Todi was & THANK YOU to Emanuele for letting us crash your day & making us feel welcomed!

Rome

ROME1Where do I begin? I could have spent months, or even years in Rome learning the city’s history! Every street housed at least one site to see & it was the norm to pop around a corner and randomly run into a 1,000 year old church, statue or fountain!  Being in the midst of all of this made me feel a tad overwhelmed – such a short period of time in Rome (3 days) & so much to see and take in.

If your next adventure brings you to Rome do not worry about what to eat or do – there are countless activities &  an unlimited amount of restaurants to pick from. With that said, I am listing out the main sites we saw, a few places that got our taste buds going & a gem that we found that should surely make your to-do list if you trek to Rome!

Continue on reading to get my best of Roma!

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