NOLA food, how do I love (and miss) thee? Let me count the ways…

Check out the 38 essentials (according to Eater) that you must try when in the Big Easy. Dat Dog, Boucherie, Jacques-imo’s, St. James, Cochon, and Domilise’s (a Manning family favorite) clock in among my favorites.

…I like how I just named half the list as my “favorite.”

NOLA food, how do I love (and miss) thee? Let me count the ways…

Warning: This post may cause jealousy, drooling or just an overall want to book a flight to Rome.

In the event of the last one happening, do it – we’re here til Tuesday. It’s been a jam packed two days in Rome so far, and nothing short of amazing. After arriving around dinner time Thursday night to a room of 6 beds packed into a room, the size of which can only be described as Polly Pocket-esque, we decided to ease our pain at a cafe down the street with some good (much needed) wine and pasta – tagliatelle to be exact. We awoke the next morning, rectified the room sitch and were off to our 1pm Coliseum reservation where Dana and I clearly got into the whole gladiator, Gate of Life, kill or be killed thing. Hey, when in Rome…

After that, we crossed the street (traversiamo for all you Italian/”Eat Pray Love” enthusiasts out there!) to the ruins of the Roman Forum where we spent time in Cesar’s old stomping grounds – his living room really provided us with a great view of the rest of the Senate area.

Cesar’s old coffee table? Anyway, Hannah’s years spent in Mr. Scott’s Latin class really came in handy here and we sat and listened as she regaled us with tales of Sextius and Cesar, Romulus and Remus, Optimus Prime and – dammit, that’s Transformers. We then walked through Rome to buy our tickets to the Roma vs. Lecce soccer game. Because the world is so absolutely small and it’s so insanely normal to see a kid from your graduating high school class of 161 people – we would of course literally walk into our old classmate Gideon and his parents, freshly arrived from the 914!

We proceeded on to a wonderful dinner, made for us by some new friends in their Rome apartment. Pasta tastes better in Italy, even when it is out of a box and made by Americans. We then went to the Ice Bar (gloves and futuristic jackets included!) for our first real night out in Rome. Sadly, my camera didn’t make the trip to this winter wonderland with us – I learned my lesson about water and technology in Munich – but I’m sure these pictures will appear on Facebook soon enough. From what I’ve seen of the photo archives, these are shots to be on the look out for.

Needless to say, waking up was a bit difficult this morning. But we managed to turn our 12:30 start time into a jam packed day of Roman conquering. We started at the Vatican and saw, of course, the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica. I’ve been lucky enough that this trip is a series of 2nds and 3rds for me and when my friend Jamie asked me if it was boring to re-do all of these landmarks and tourist sites, I didn’t even hesitate to say ‘no’ because, honestly, who can scoff at seeing the Sistine Chapel twice? It’s been fantastic for me to get to revisit these things, not only with a new group of people, but (selfishly) with no pressure to have to see everything because, well, I already did. It’s like getting to eat the whole cake and then being told you can lick the spoon – and don’t even pretend you’re too cool to lick the spoon.

After this ever so attractive shot in front of the fountain in St. Peter’s we made a quick-change and headed out to the Roma vs. Lecce game that we were tipped off about by our resident trip planner, Steve Antenucci. Quick aside: Steve, if we could’ve bought you a plane ticket, we would’ve. THANK YOU SO MUCH for everything. And I’m sure we’ll be kissing your feet after dinner at Tony’s tomorrow night.

Our view from our seats!

(Sorry for the size! This one’s a mobile upload) We were oh so spirited in our Roma tee’s and jersey’s – #10, Totti for me! After the game we hopped the Metro and headed to the Trevi Fountain. My wish for amazing pizza was obviously granted because we stumbled upon a great restaurant a few blocks away. Oh the magic of throwing coins into Italian fountain water!

And now, I am one exhausted Italian. Well toured, well fed and teetering on the brink of food/gelato coma, I sign off happy and exhausted but completely and totally ready for Halloween in Rome tomorrow night (YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAYA). I’d get ready for stories and photos. One word teaser: pinkbobwig. Okay, maybe that was a phrase where I took the spaces out but still, the point stands.

Nigel Thornberry, here!

My sister (and family) can probably attest to the fact that I was speaking in this accent the other night as I plodded home from a night out in Florence (drunk dials are quite an expensive international vice). But I think my drunken, accent/language loving, alter-ego may have actually been quite poignant when picking out this character because we have truly been explorers of Italy for these past days. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t talk to animals and our experiences haven’t been anything that hasn’t already been written about in Tour Italy guides across the globe, BUT it has still been nothing short of fantastic.

My rule about gelato has been kept to and, I won’t lie, I’ve been quite strict about this. But yesterday there were thanks all around because I’m pretty sure we found the best ice cream in Florence, and the best ice cream we’ve ever had. 3 experts surveyed, all in agreement.

One of the experts. Her face really says it all.

There are 1,000 stories I could tell about these past four days and nights here in Florence – the Academia, the David, the David’s p…arts, the Uffizi Gallery, every single piazza, every single cobblestone, every single bottle of wine, scoop of gelato, step of the 463 that it took to get us up to the most breathtaking view of Florence I’ve ever seen courtesy of the Duomo, every bite of pasta – whether it was tagliatelle or gnocchi, it’s all just been that good!

The climb to the top, around 150 steps in we stopped for a breather.

436 steps later…I’d say it was definitely worth the 360 degree Panoramic view. Malou, we’re going back and I’m taking you. Start training now, my friend!

And as for the people here, they’ve have been fantastic – and extremely, extremely patient – with this American girl’s attempts at speaking Italian. They’ve also been insanely nice, although coming from France, this apparant change in attitude is probably amplified for us because it’s really not that hard to be nicer than the French. Stereotyping. Sorry (I’m not sorry). If the Italians we encountered at Oktoberfest were any indication of how friendly (and quelquefois a bit persistant) Italians can be, we certainly encountered more of their kind here! I think I’ve come away from these past 6 days with over 15 new requests on Facebook? Man, Europeans love this social networking thing. BTW, all requests are pending.

But today we leave for Rome, continuing our vacation in the Eternal City – and just in time for my favorite holiday…Halloween! Reports are in: this is celebrated in Italy, so I won’t look as crazy as I expected when I put on a costume and celebrate. But we have many things to do, many plans to be made and many friends to meet up with before then! The brave (and wig hunting) Hannah Berkman has managed to outwit the strikers of France (seriously guys, still?) and get to Rome, along with some other recurring cast members such as Christina Houser (the Oktoberfest episodes), Jamie Shapiro (AUCP cast) and I’m sure we’ll have some surprise guests from people that we don’t know are even in Rome but – OMG, you’re here too?! It’s gonna happen…

In fact, this did happen to me over dinner last night – which could have been the most amazing food, wine, dining, everything experience of this trip. Quick story: I turn around to hear English being spoken with a slight Westchesta twang (you know the accent) and thus, in a very out of character move, strike up conversation. Less than 5 minutes later I am listing names of any girl from Briarcliff who ever played Lady Knicks basketball circa 8th grade. Strange, huh? Even stranger, this girl knew who I was talking about. The world is tiny, the word ‘small’ doesn’t even do it justice.

Okay, on to Oil Shoppe (we’ve become regulars at the best panini place in Florence in only 4 days), the Duomo, a last gelato in Florence and then train to Rome! See you in la Citta Eterna!

The Florence Crew on top of the Uffizi.