Kaló taksídi! Off to Greece

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Ciao friends! I’ve been in Mykonos for two days and am heading to Paros today by boat. It’s just the beginning of an epic two-week trip my husband and I planned in March. I’ve actually had a travel book for Greece since 2008 when I first began dreaming  about visiting this beautiful island country, but wasn’t sure when I would be able to make it a reality. I’m excited to share beautiful photos with you soon, but will probably be offline most of next week. Stay tuned! A few links for your summer weekend:

(image via here)

48 Hours in Piedmont, Italy

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My husband has been talking about the Piedmont region maybe as far back as our first date in 2010. Although he’d never visited, he fell in love with Piedmont wines while living in an apartment over an Italian wine shop in Boston. Which was long before meeting me. So, it’s surprising it took us 10 months to plan a trip there…but, last week the dream became a reality.

And the reality is this place is a dreamland.IMG_5311

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The family-run bed & breakfast where we stayed was something straight out of Travel + Leisure. The kind of place where only honeymooners should be allowed. We arrived directly from our campsite in Aosta–Alpine mud still clinging to our hiking boots–and they welcomed us in. We shined ourselves up, hopped on bicycles and headed into town. “Town” is the village of Neive.
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With just a handful of restaurants, one gelateria and a church, Neive was the perfect antidote for the two hours we’d spent navigating Italy’s highways (and um, animated drivers). We ate a peaceful lunch of linguine with sautéed zucchini flowers and returned later for a drink to find that the restaurant had been transformed into the hottest place in town.

On our last night we ate one of those incredible, memorable dinners on a restaurant terrace overlooking the whole of Barbaresco. The waiter was able to point to the vineyard where our wine was produced while we watched the sunset dip below the pink, sun-streaked clouds.IMG_5486

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I’ll post more on the actual wine tasting soon…but for now, a few links for your Wednesday:

Campeggio Italiano: Camping in the Aosta Valley

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A lot of people think I live in Sweden. Or near it. Or at least on a snow-covered mountain located very far north in Europe. In reality, Geneva is fairly far south–just an hour’s drive from the Italian border. So on a whim last week, we decided to drive through the tunnel running under Mont Blanc and camp in the Italian Alps. What we found was lovely.IMG_5091

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Having spent so much time in the neighboring Swiss and French Alps–skiing and eating raclette–we were curious how the Italian side would differ. Although the natural beauty feels a lot like Switzerland’s, the pace, the people, even the architecture feels entirely Italian as soon as you cross the border. We set up camp at Campeggio Lo Stambecco in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park.

We chose the campground because like many countries, wild camping–or pitching a tent wherever you find a spot–is illegal. My husband would definitely prefer camping in the wild away from the comforts of a hot shower, but we ended up falling in love with the kooky campsite.
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The laid-back, decidedly hippie atmosphere at Campeggio Lo Stambecco transported me back to a Berkeley student-run camp my family frequented throughout my childhood in northern California. Reservations at Lo Stambecco were lax, we had to track someone down to actually pay our bill and there was a tiny, teenager-run cafe. I happily adapted from “roughing it” to “camping with benefits” as I call it. The aperitivo hour in the afternoon was heavenly.
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You can’t beat the prices at Lo Stambecco!

Although it was hazy and drizzly the two days we spent camping in the park, it was a welcome respite from the bizarre Swiss heat wave we’ve been experiencing. There is almost nothing I love more than enjoying a cup of campfire-brewed espresso while surveying a cool, foggy morning.

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When the rain started coming down a bit harder, we caught the local (free) bus into the nearby town of Cogne. We ducked into a restaurant for a warm lunch of local specialties. Turns out what fondue is to the Swiss Alps, polenta is to the Italian side. The grits-like dish around Cogne was prepared absolutely slathered in a strong, melted mountain cheese. Which seems to suggest that no matter what part of the Alps you’re in, cheese is the main course. Of course, the antipasti was equally delectable…

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We’re headed back in the fall and I’m already mentally packing my sweaters for cozy evenings by the fire. I hope you’re still in a summer frame of mind today…but for now, a few links:

Behind the wheel: Road trip essentials

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I initially had been weary of road tripping through Italy instead of arriving by train–what with crazy Italian roads and us not having been behind the wheel in months… but I forgot how much I enjoyed the freedom of a car: playing the radio with the windows down, stopping wherever we wanted to take a photo and making our own itinerary.

I’ll still be the Swiss rail system’s #1 fan, but I’m looking forward to planning more European road trips in the future. I’ve rounded up a few items I’d love to have on my next road trip and divided them into two categories: “high road” (expensive) and “low road” (affordable). Enjoy!

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High Road Retro Sunglasses (Stella McCartney)

image1xxlLow Road Retro Sunglasses (ASOS)

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High Road Plastic Cup (HOST)

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Low Road Plastic Cup (SOLO)010735400704_01_01_645Wx645HHigh Road Driving Shoes (Tod’s)

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High Road Weekender Bag (Longchamp)_10258852

 Low Road Weekender Bag (Sole Society)

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High Road GPS (Garmin watch)

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Low Road GPS (Michelin Map)

We used a map, some directions from Google and locals to get around the winding Piedmont country roads. We got a little lost, but never in an argument–so I’m calling the trip a success! Here’s hoping you are exploring some new territory this weekend…but for now, a few links:

On Swiss life

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As we near one year of living in Switzerland and one year on our apartment lease, I’ve been looking for a new (more affordable) apartment in Geneva. The job is tedious and all-consuming. Long French phone calls. Stacks of paperwork. Back-to-back meetings. Fees. Dead ends.

And then I came across this story.

A 22-year-old New Zealand man hired as an unpaid intern by the United Nations in Geneva has been forced to live in a tent because he cannot afford the high cost of accommodation in the city. 

David Hyde has been sleeping on a patch of ground overlooking Lake Geneva not far from the the UN Beach Club, where well-heeled employees sunbathe, paddle in the water and sip aperitifs at the bar.

(Hyde’s plight caught the attention of a local reporter last week when a rainstorm threatened to wash away his “home.” Here he is dressed to go to work…)

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The area where he pitched his tent was soaked and yet the morning after Hyde had to put on his suit, fold up his tent, pack up his gas stove and other meagre belongings and head off to his unpaid job.

“How do the others do it?” he asked of the dozens of interns who take six-month positions at the UN without a salary.

Hyde resigned himself to living in a tent after searching for a room or studio to rent only to find the rents — in a city known to be one of the most expensive in the world — were beyond his means.

“I was perhaps naive in coming here but this policy (of not paying interns) makes me furious.”

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In the few days since the article was published Hyde received an outpouring of community support, but on Tuesday announced his resignation from the UN intern program.

“In no way was my goal to arouse pity and to obtain lodgings,” he told media this week. “I hope simply that my story can contribute to changing things for the situation of interns.”

He said he hoped attention could focus away from him and on the lot of interns in general.

Evoking the Declaration of Human Rights, which calls for all people to be paid for their work, Hyde said he hoped the UN would become a “role model for internships in the future.”

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Unpaid internships are the hallmark of the journalism industry and I’ve worked my fair share. Fortunately, my parents were always able to support me. This is not the case for many.

I’ve been touched by Hyde’s story and have resolved to not complain about my envious situation of choosing between apartments. The article arrived at the right moment–I’ve been humbled. Has that happened to you? Wishing you a complaint-free week…for now, a few links: