Tempting Tuesday: Beach Adventures in Cuba by Andrea Perullo

As the tourists come crushing into the beaches of the Amalfi Coast, it’s been a pleasure to dream of traveling to other beaches around the world with this fun series of guest posts. With the crowds and the heat, nothing beats a bit of armchair traveling from the comfort of home! When the summer heat rises, out comes my collection of Cuban music by the amazingly talented artists such as Ruben Gonzalez, Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer and so many others. If I can get my hands on some limes and mint—not always the easiest ingredients to find here in Italy—I’ll even whip up some mojitos. This week Andi from My Beautiful Adventures really tempted me with her story and gorgeous photos from her beach adventures in Cuba. She certainly does know how to have beautiful travel adventures!

Welcome, Andi!

________________________________________________________

 

Palm Trees Cuba

 

I am an adrenalin junkie like no other! This trait was developed several years ago and must now be satiated constantly. So, if you add my fascination with Cuban history and politics, my crush on Che, my love for mojitos, and all things Latin WITH being told that I am not allowed to legally enter the country; well, I could not have designed a better place to get my adrenaline fix in, nor to celebrate my 25th Birthday, than La
Habana, Cuba.

The trip itself was a dream-come-true, but one of the most memorable parts of the whole trip was spending my Birthday at Playa del Este, or the East Beach in Spanish. It is only about a 20 minute and $5 taxi ride from downtown La Habana.

 

Beach Cuba

 

As I walked over the sand dunes and in the direction of the ocean the sight of the crystal blue waters took my breath away! I will never become jaded with the Caribbean. The beach is long and wide, with white soft sand and warm gentle water.

Throughout most of Cuba you will encounter a separation between tourists and locals. That type of segregation was really unsettling and bothered me the entire trip, however unlike everywhere else, Playa del Este had no separation and being amongst the locals, especially in such a gorgeous setting, made the experience that much more unforgettable.

 

Beach Cuba 2

 

Surrounding the beach are numerous restaurants and bars, but my favorite place for a snack was the popular ice cream stand that always had a line.

I revisited Playa del Este once more on my last day in Cuba. It was the perfect place for me to reflect on my trip. The island was full of life and desperation at the same time. Surrounded by tropical heat, the beat of salsa music, dilapidated architecture, and the constant presence of political unease; in Cuba I had the constant feeling that something was just about to occur, because in a place so full of uncertainty the only thing that was
for sure was that something inevitably would happen!

 

Car Cuba

_____________

Andrea Perullo is a Chinese Medicine Doctor by day, travel addict by night. When she is not treating patients, she is exploring the world or dreaming of the next place to visit.  She also writes travel features for MNUI Travel Insurance and blogs at My Beautiful Adventures.

Tempting Tuesday: Joie de Vivre in the Isle of Pines by Andi Perullo

This new beach series for Tempting Tuesday has really got me dreaming of some new travel destinations around the world! This week Andi Perullo from My Beautiful Adventures shares with us an idyllic spot in the South Pacific that is perfect for Francophiles. (And she is right … I had never heard of it before!) Be prepared to start dreaming . . .

Welcome, Andi!

________________________________________________________

 

Isle of Pines from plane Isle of Pines from the airplane

 

My first foray into the South Pacific was to an archipelago that is unknown by most.  While New Caledonia is less than a 5 hour plane ride away from Australia, it is like stepping into a whole other world, and a surprising one at that. Physically it could not be more any more exotic, however, it is a French territory and has a distinct French feel.  The national language is French, the currency is the Franc and the cuisine has a strong French influence, making this a dream-come-true for Francophiles.  It is quite an interesting mix!

To get to New Caledonia, one must fly into the capitol city of Noumea.  Noumea is considered to be the most westernized capital in the South Pacific.  Although Noumea is incredibly charming, the real New Caledonia exists in the outlying islands.  Only having a few days to explore, I chose to visit Isle of Pines, which is only a 25 minute plane ride away.

 

Andi Joie de vivreExperiencing joie de vivre in Isle of Pines

 

Isle of Pines is often nicknamed “l’île la plus proche du paradis,” or the closest island to Paradise.  I know that too often travelers claim that they have found “the most beautiful place on earth” and that phrase has now become cliché.  Fortunately, sounding cliché does not bother me, thus without hesitation I say the same about this 8 mile long island.

The place to stay is Le Meridien and to call it a luxury resort is an understatement.  It is nestled amongst a lagoon and has private access to a glorious part of the New Caledonia Barrier Reef.

 

New Caldonia Barrier Reef from Le Meridien2New Caledonia Barrier Reef from Le Meridien

 

Isle of Pines gets its true name from the fact that it is saturated with pine trees.  The rich smell of pine in the air is intoxicating, especially while floating in the tranquil warm water of the ocean.

I spent most of my time snorkeling and simply just soaking up everything that the island had to offer.  Time truly stops when you are there.

I do hope that everyone is able to make the long journey there someday, as I promise it is worth it.  As the French say, “Bon voyage!’

_______________________

Andrea Perullo is a Chinese Medicine Doctor by day, travel addict by night. When she is not treating patients, she is exploring the world or dreaming of the next place to visit. She also writes travel features for MNUI Travel Insurance and blogs at My Beautiful Adventures.

Tempting Tuesday: Dropping Anchor in Venice by Andrea Perullo

When I think of Venice something in my heart still sighs. It was the first place I visited in Italy ten years ago and it certainly stole a piece of my heart. I am happy to welcome this week Andrea Perullo from My Beautiful Adventures, who experienced a similar draw to Venice just as many years ago. By the way, if you haven’t checked out Andi’s blog, be sure to visit as it’s one of my new favorites!

Welcome, Andi!

______________________________________________________

While it has been almost a decade since I have visited Italy, it still holds a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is because I know that my ancestors hail from there or perhaps it is because the trip I took was with my father and traveling with him was a treasure in itself? Nonetheless, Italy is simply magical and I have no doubt that I will return one day soon.

 

Andrea Venice1

On that trip, I visited Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Pisa, Padua, and Venice; the latter city being my favorite. “La Serenissima,” or the “the most serene one,” as the locals affectionately call it, definitely left a lasting impression on me. They say that everything floats in Venice and I certainly floated in my own state of surrealness the entire 3 days I was there. The following are my thoughts that I wrote down in a journal one day while I was drinking an espresso in Piazza San Marco, which is the city’s famed central square that is lined with shops and cafes and on any given day bustling with lovers and musicians:

Imagine the city of Venice at the end of the day, rainy and slightly fog shrouded, just as the glow of twilight begins to settle over everything. The sounds of the church bells, lapping water, and the song of a solitary gondolier waft through the air on a salt-tinged breeze. There is an astonishment evoked by a place that is from its lowliest footbridge to its loftiest Basilica, indeed a work of art. Few cities in the world are as breathtaking as Venice. She rises like her namesake, Goddess Venus, from the sea. Gondolas, glass work, and gorgeous piazzas are all part of the mysteriousness of this fabled city on the Adriatic Sea. Is it any wonder that Casanova called it his home away from home? Floating through the canals the flowers in the windowsills call out, “Ciao bella!,” and it is impossible to not want to drop an anchor here.

Andrea in Piazza San Marco Italy 

Andrea in Piazza San Marco

_____________

Andrea Perullo is a Chinese Medicine Doctor by day, travel addict by night. When she is not treating patients, she is exploring the world or dreaming of the next place to visit. She also writes travel features for MNUI Travel Insurance and blogs at My Beautiful Adventures.

Walking among the cobblestones in Florence, Italy

 

This Sunday I’m happy to welcome back my friend Katie Greenaway, an American who now lives in Florence, Italy. She tempted us last Tuesday with her favorite church in Florence, and today she’s taking us on a walk through the streets of her beloved city. These two guest posts on Florence have me thinking about the wonderful few days I spent in Florence last month, and I’ll be sharing some photos and stories from my trip over the next few weeks. Until then, enjoy a Sunday stroll through Florence with Katie.

Welcome, Katie!

_________________________________________________________

 

Katie Florence 2

Florence has always been a destination on everyone’s list to visit.  If you are lucky enough to spend a lazy Sunday in Florence, Italy this is what I would suggest.  With all the tourist groups that congest the city center, why not venture to the areas more scarce and full of the energy of the locals.  The Oltrarno holds many of the secrets of Florence such as Cuculia that has a great Sunday Brunch. If that is too much, just enjoy a refreshing cappuccino and a pastry.  Bring a book or your computer and use the free WiFi in Cuculia.  Florence is very lazy waking up on Sundays, so no need to wake up too early.  

After your delightful cappuccino, start heading to Porta Romana.  There you will find 3 different streets to follow.  I suggest the one on the far right.  It is called Viale Niccolo` Macchiavelli.  Along this street, there are many trees and benches where if you feel like taking a rest and getting out your book again, just do it.  Among these trees are very gorgeous homes, villas and luxuries hotels.  Great for photo ops.

This street will take you all the way to San Miniato al Monte then onward to the panoramic view of Piazzale Michelangelo.  Both the views from San Miniato and Piazzale Michelangelo are views of a lifetime.  Imagine what people in this city did years before and how they live now.  As I know now, after living here for about 8 years on and off, I have lived every type of life here.  The tourist, the student, the nanny and finally the self-sufficient worker living a simple life in the city of Florence that brings me joy and happiness everyday.  

Katie Florence 1

Enjoy the city as it stands on its own.  Florence has so much to offer to the independent traveler.  Keep your eyes peeled and see what presents itself to you. Don’t ask questions, just live it! 

_____________

Katie Greenaway is a freelance travel writer and is the Local Expert of Florence for Nile Guide where she also provides the secrets of Florence on her blog.  She writes about her life in Florence on her personal blog Olio di Oliva e Sogni di Vino and contributes to MNUI Travel Insurance with travel articles.

Tempting Tuesday: SS. Apostoli in Florence with Katie Greenaway

Katie and Laura in Florence

This is a very special Tempting Tuesday for me. I am happy to welcome my friend Katie Greenaway to write about one of her favorite spots in Florence, where she is so lucky to call home. This is special, because last month when I visited Florence and met Katie in person for the first time, she took me on a walk through her Florence, past this beautiful church and through the most peaceful residential neighborhoods. I am grateful for the new friends I have met here in Italy, for how they brighten my days and make me feel at home here in a new country. This photo is us in front of the SS. Apostoli church. But I’ll let Katie tell you more about it…

Welcome, Katie!

________________________________________________________

Santi_Apostoli

The most tempting place for me in Florence is my special church named SS. Apostoli.  The church was introduced to me in 2002 by my very Italian art and architecture teacher, Vera.  It was closed at that time but I always remembered that it was Vera’s favorite church, and it was an obsession for me to arrive there when it was open.  It was like a secret treasure that I needed to uncover.  Since then, it has been a place of solitude and quiet contemplation for me.

Not many people know about this exquisite church located right next the Arno river in Piazza del Limbo.  Legend has it that there is a cemetery underneath the cobblestones where babies were buried.  The babies died before being baptized.  Hence the name of the piazza, Limbo.  Built in the 11th century, SS. Apostoli is one of the oldest churches in Florence. 

 

DSC00297_2 

The church was said to have been built by Charlemagne in the year 800 A.D.  The facade speaks to the Romanesque period and the main doors from the 14th century.  SS. Apostoli was severely damaged in the 1966 flood when the Arno river came over it’s walls and flowed into the church.  Many of the frescoes were damaged beyond repair others are still being restored to this day.  It is a rare experience when you visit SS. Apostoli, so much history and so much soul.

SS Apostoli Katie Greenaway

SS. Apostoli really brings my life here to a calming stop when I step into this sacred space.  I can’t hear the taxis speeding down Borgo SS. Apostoli, nor tours marching along the streets, absolutely nothing.  I never pass up a chance to visit my church.  It lies in the middle of the city and yet when you step inside, you enter a peaceful universe.  It is more than tempting, it is enticing! 

______________

Katie Greenaway is a freelance travel writer and is the Local Expert of Florence for Nile Guide where she also provides the secrets of Florence on her blog.  She writes about her life in Florence on her personal blog Olio di Oliva e Sogni di Vino and contributes to MNUI Travel Insurance with travel articles.