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Visiting the Cinque Terre

August 19, 2015

Riomaggiore, Italy (Cinque Terre)

buildings in Riomaggiore, Italy

We stayed in the pink building on the far left on the 2nd floor.

Lacey and I spent a brief, yet wonderful 2 days in the Cinque Terre as a layover stop between Rome and Milan during our trip to Italy.  The 5 towns of the Cinque Terre (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore) were once regarded as a few of the best kept secrets in Italy.  It seems like the world has caught on as it was pretty much flooded with tourists while we were there.  The 5 towns are very unique in that they are all self sustaining farming and fishing communities.  Cars are not allowed in the towns themselves, except for the occasional delivery truck or two.  There is a walkway/trail connecting each of the towns if you’re looking for some exercise.  If walking isn’t your thing (you shouldn’t go to Europe) you can hop on a train along the coastline that stops in each of the 5 towns.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll find world class seafood dishes from nearly every restaurant in these towns.  Lacey and I were pleased to find some amazing pizza and gelato shops as well.

The best part of this brief trip for us was (besides getting engaged of course) the hike through the Cinque Terre National Park from Monterosso to Vernazza.  The scenery was seriously like being in a real life fairy tale.  Check out the pics below for proof.

Travel Tips:

Spend a few extra bucks and get a room with a view of the Mediterranean

Wear running shoes if you’re going to hike through the National Park.  There is some fairly technical terrain in spots

Stop by “Edi’s” laundromat in Riomaggiore.  Edi himself frequents this location and has many hook-ups through out the town from hotel rooms to restaurants.  He’s also happy to share his homemade limoncello with travelers 🙂

downtown Riomaggiore

Downtown Riomaggiore

bedroom view

Lacey sitting on cliffs.

Walkable coastline

Monterosso Beach

Monterosso Beach

Monterosso Flowers

Beautiful girl with some not so bad flowers behind her

Trail Sign "Vernazza"

Cobbleston Stairs to Vernazza

Lacey was excited to “burn some calories.”

View of Vernazza

Vernazza

Crops along the hike

Cliff Sculpture

Riomaggiore Beach

Behind Riomaggiore

coastline

Lacey posing on the shore

Captain America pose

Reviews Travel

3 Things to do in Chicago, IL

August 16, 2015

Chicago, IL

Skyline View of Chicago, IL

View from the top of the Willis Tower in downtown Chicago, IL.

While Lacey was busy in Wisconsin performing matron-of-honor- duties last week, I decided to check out Chicago, IL for a day.  Being that I only had 1 day to burn, I needed to come up with a plan to make sure I experienced as much as I could.  If Chicago were water, I was going to drink it through a fire hose.  If Chicago were a beer, I was about to shotgun it.

Step 1: See the entire city

I only had an hour or 2 to complete this step, so I went to the tallest building in the city for help. The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).

view from the Skydeck Ledge in the Willis Tower, Chicago.

The Skydeck “Ledge” was an experience I’ll never forget. 103 stories down.

 

Step 2: Eat Chicago Style Pizza – Gino’s East

Being from Idaho, I’ve only had rip-off versions of Chicago Style pizza.  It was time to experience the real thing.  I left the Willis Tower and hopped a bus to the legendary Gino’s East pizza joint.  Not only was it the best pizza I’ve had in my life, it was one of the cooler restaurant atmospheres I’ve ever seen.  You didn’t need to hear any of the stories to know that there was a ton of history behind this place.  My only regret is that I didn’t take a white-out pen to write my name on the wall.  …you’ll see what I mean in the images below.  Side note, did anyone else know Chicago Style pizza puts the sauce on top of the cheese? How’s your mind? Blown? Mine too.

Gino's East, Chicago

Line outside of Gino’s East in Chicago.

Gino's East deep dish pizza

I would have written “Mat 8-7-15, Lacey M.I.A.”

Gino's East Chicago Style Pizza

I can usually finish half a pizza by myself. At Gino’s East, I was done after 2 slices.

Gino's East Celebrity Wall

Row of celebrity pictures/autographs upstairs near the bathrooms.

 

Step 3: Experience Wrigley Field

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, go see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field.  This is one of the most beautiful and historic parks left standing.  Take someone you care about, because you’re going to want to reminisce about this day with them down the road.  Eat a hot dog, grab a beer, interact with some inspired locals.  Once you see the Cubs play (and hopefully win) at Wrigley Field, you can head home from your vacation with a strong understanding of what this city and its people are all about.  The 7th inning stretch “take me out to the ballgame” performance from the 35k+ fans on hand was one of the coolest things I think I’ll ever witness.

Wrigley Field, Chicago

I felt proud of my ex-teammate Jon Lester as I saw his image covering the stadium

Wrigley Field Scoreboard

6 rows behind the Cubs dugout.

Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson

Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson shagging batting practice.

Wrigley Field Night Game

A guy in front of me got DRILLED by a foul ball.

 

Conclusion:

Chicago is a beautiful city.  Public transportation is easy to use (even for me).  The next time I go, I want to hit up the Field Museum to see the T-Rex fossil.  I also hear there is a world famous cup-cake joint somewhere in the city.  The only thing I wish were different about the above mentioned trip was that I didn’t have my partner in crime with me.  Lacey would love this city.

L Train in Chicago

One of my final views of the city as I waited for my train to Milwaukee.

 

Lifestyle Reviews

Mountain Home Country Music Festival

July 26, 2015

I rocked out to DJKO between sets.

Mat and I were lucky enough to score some free tickets to the 1st Annual Mountain Home Country Music Festival. Growing up on country music (and Mat growing up listening to Tupac and Incubus), I like to think I’m the reason he enjoys country concerts now. We were stoked because the line up was incredible: Brad Paisley, Sarah Evans, Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton, Justin Moore, Jana Kramer, and many more.

Since we got these tickets last minute, we decided not to try and camp for the three day festival, but just drive the hour back and forth each day.  Since this was our first official “festival” we had attended, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect, especially with it being a 1st Annual.

We left work a couple hours early on Friday to get there in time to see one of our favorites, Thompson Square, at 5 p.m. Well, we arrived at the festival in time, but hadn’t accounted for waiting in a line of cars for over an hour just to park. Unfortunately, we missed seeing Thompson Square perform, but we were still excited to see Justin Moore and Brad Paisley that night.

After finally parking and making the 75 mile trek in (I may be slightly exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like), I already had a blister and watched one girl roll her ankle thanks to the very uneven ground. The “venue” of the festival reminded me of one of my dad’s fields…..that hadn’t been watered in 10 years. It probably didn’t help that it was incredibly windy as well. I spent most of the time holding a hand over the top of my beer to try and keep dirt from blowing in it.

We also weren’t prepared for the access that our tickets allowed. We didn’t know that tickets were tiered, with general availability being so far back you could only see the performers on the jumbo screen. I’m not sure why, but I was assuming I could elbow my way towards the front of the stage. But no, only VIP ticket holders were allowed anywhere close to the stage. That’s alright, it gave me more room to dance.

When we got home that night, I swear I had never been that dirty in my life. My legs were a different color thanks to the dirt line (kind of like a tan line that washes off) where my shorts and the top of my sandals were. I couldn’t imagine camping there and just getting in a sleeping bag without showering. Hats off to all of those that did-I am NOT that hardcore!

The takeaways from attending the first night of the Mountain Home Country Music Festival:

1. Wear shoes or boots. Not sandals. My mistake.

2. Spend the extra money to get VIP tickets (only because we are ticket snobs).

3. Fanci Freez always tastes amazing.

4. Don’t plan on ever feeling clean.

5. No matter how dirty it is, if there is country music, I will still have a blast.

 

Brad-Paisley

Brad Paisley

Justin-Moore

Justin Moore

Mountain-Home-Country-Food

Of course we had Fanci Freez for dinner.

Mountain-Home-Country-Mat

Some hot guy I saw. His name is Mat.

Mountain-Home-Country-Music

Dusty sunset.

MountainHome-Music-Fest-Us