Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 8:55 am and the Carnival Legend was in Helsinki, Finland.

We went to Truffles for breakfast with Tim and Gabbie.  I had a baked apple and smoked salmon with cream cheese on a bagel.

There was free internet at the port and we used it for a few minutes.

We all took the shuttle into the city center which was 10€ for each person round trip.

Got off the shuttle bus.  Ivan was looking at a city map.  A lady told us about a market nearby.  So, we walked down the street to the market.  Tim and I took some pictures.

Ivan wanted to use the internet, so we said bye to Tim and Gabbie.  We walked around to find a café where we used the free internet.  Ivan and I both had an espresso since we were tired.

We walked to the Hotel Klaus K for the meeting point for a tour.  This hotel is filled with lots of cool décor and artwork.

The Helsinki Food tour started shortly after noon.  Our guide was a goth girl who had pink hair, not sure what her name was.  She was really in need of a tan.

Bread with sour cream, veggies & herring

We had a spruce drink and a tasty bread with herring, cream cheese, onions and cucumber on top.

The small group of eleven started walking to our next food destination.  Eromanga is a home bakery.  Here, our guide started handing out meat pies called lihapiirakka.  Ivan said that he was vegetarian.

Lihapiirakka, a Finnish pastry

The meat pie was like a donut on the outside with meat and rice on the inside.  It was slightly sweet.  The guide plopped down Ivan’s substitute and didn’t say what it was.  Our guide never even told us anything about the meat pie.

It was off to our next stop which was at the market.  Our guide gave us reindeer meatballs with a cranberry sauce and little fried herrings with sour cream.  Ivan asked if he could get a water.  The guide looked at one of the guys who ran the stalls and said Uhh, I think you have to buy it.   You would think that since we’re paying 55€  per person for the tour, we could get a bottle of water for free.  Ivan ended up buying a bottle of water.

The reindeer meat was tasty.

Ivan with a little fried herring

Ivan and I both enjoyed the fried fish as well.

The group’s next stop was at Pure Bistro where we had a pine slush which is made from the sap of the pine tree.  An American guy said it tasted like Christmas which it actually did.  I could definitely have more of this tasty slush.

We walked to a square where you can see a big church on a hill.  The guide tried to gather us together to tell a story, but everybody started taking pictures.  She did tell one person the story.  She was a really bad guide.  She seemed shy and didn’t want to talk to us.  I think she thought it would be fine just to take us to places and not really explain anything.

Helsinki Cathedral

The group walked up to Helsinki Cathedral.  I asked her what it was.  She said something about it, but it didn’t make much sense.  All I got was that it’s a famous church on a hill.

Our next stop was Krypta Cafe.

Krypta Cafe in Helsinki

It was cool being in a crypt, but the food was really weird.  It was a cafe that sold tea, coffee and cakes.  We got a chocolate cake and an apple pastry.  Again, we didn’t get any explanation about the food.  It was just cheap cakes that you would get at a hospital cafeteria.

We walked by a lovely Roman building, but our guide didn’t say anything about it.  On most food tours, they will talk about the places we are passing by.

The group went to Anton & Anton next which is an organic grocery store.  A lady from the store told us about the blueberry and cardamom ice cream.  She was much friendlier than our guide.  Our guide seemed to look at her in envy since everybody was listening to her.  The ice cream was delicious.

We also got to taste cheese that was aged 5 months that was on a cracker with jam on top.

Tasty cheese & jam on a cracker

The last stop was at Chjoko which sells Finnish chocolate.  The store sold lots of chocolate and truffles.  Our group got a dark chocolate bar that was broken up in pieces and little milk chocolate balls.  Ivan thought it was cheap that we didn’t get any good chocolate truffles.  The guide only told us what kind of chocolate we were getting.  She said it would be our last stop and gave us our diploma.  A lot of people were asking what places we visited.  Our guide had to think about it.  She has got to be the worst guide we’ve ever had on a tour.  We’ve done a lot of tours during our years of traveling.  She wasn’t a good storyteller and never explained the foods we were eating.

The Helsinki Food tour was good for the food.. but it’s overpriced.  I’m sure it would have been a lot better with a good guide.

We walked back to the drop-off area and boarded the shuttle bus.  Ivan and I saw Tim and Gabbie sitting down.  The bus left at 3:45 pm headed to the port.

We tried to use the free internet at the port, but it wasn’t working.

Back on the Carnival Legend, Ivan went walking around.  I watched music videos in the room while I tried to work on the blog.  It was nice to chill on the balcony.

Ivan came back to get ready.  I fell asleep when he was in the shower.  When he was done, he told me I should get ready and meet him at trivia or at Truffles for dinner.

I fell back asleep since I was tired.  I showered, got ready and walked to find Ivan.  He told me that he, Tim and Gabbie won the British Pub Quiz and they each won a Carnival medal.

Ivan started off with a fruit appetizer while I got a vegetarian soup.

Ivan had the vegetarian Indian meal – the dishes change nightly.  I had a cheeseburger with fries for my main course.  I do miss my burgers when I’m pescetarian.

The waiters were getting ready to dance.  I told them Gabbie and I wanted to dance.  I went up, but Gabbie didn’t want to.  We danced to DJ Otzi’s Hey Baby (If You’ll Be My Girl).  I copied the moves of the waiters which were very easy to learn.

Jen dancing with our waiters

I love dancing and I realized I miss doing it.

We talked awhile with our dinner mates at the table.  Everybody left at 10 pm.  It was really windy outside and the ship was really rocky tonight.

Ivan and I decided to call it an early night and went to bed at 11 pm.


Fez Food Tour

Ivan and I had breakfast at the riad at 9 am on June 13, 2013.  Lil Dave was already out to meet up with Abu for a tour of the medina and a banana tasting.

Ivan and I got a taxi to the Blue Gate.

The Blue Gate in Fez

We saw a Chinese lady there waiting for the food tour.  Shortly, Gail showed up later.

Gail was our guide for the Souk Tasting Trails food tour.  We went to a café inside the Blue Gate and met a young, posh girl from Oxford who was also part of the group.

We walked around the medina and Gail told us about the food.  She thinks it’s important to eat the local food to connect to a place.

We learned that fig and dates are mentioned in the Koran, so Muslims find it sacred.  They are stockpiling them right now for the upcoming Ramadan.  To break their fast, they eat dates since it has a high level of sugar which travels quickly to the liver.  We tried medjool dates which were tasty.

Muslims think that male meat is better than females.  You will see testicles attached to meat hanging outside a butcher to prove it’s male meat.

Hanging male meat

Isn’t that lovely?

Gail gave us something that looked like a little broom.  You tear off a piece of the dried flower of the agave and use it as a toothpick.

Ivan looks like a hick

Ivan stuck it in his mouth and he looked like a country bumpkin.

We saw uncooked stuffed camel spleen which didn’t look very appetizing.

Stuffed camel spleen

Gail really knew all about Moroccan food and life.

Our next tasting was celebratory candy like sesame and nougat candies.  The nougat candies are colorful with a variety of colors like green, white, pink, orange, yellow and brown.

We learned about olives and their antiseptic quality.  If a kid gets a cut on their finger, an olive is cut open and put around the finger.

Our group stopped to see the Mint Man who allowed photographs to be taken of him.

The Mint Man

He seemed like a nice guy.  Muslims can’t be too proud, so they don’t like getting photographed.  Some people will ask for money when you’re going to take a picture of them.

Holding some mint

We smelled mint and lemons at the mint place.

Blue barrel filled with honey

The group stopped at a honey souk where we got to try 7 different honeys in the back room where the honey was stored in big blue barrels.  A few of the honeys we tasted were eucalyptus, acacia, carob & grape, lavender and fig.  Some were gritty while others were silky smooth.  The flavors varied a lot from smoky to creamy to nutty.  I really liked the eucalyptus honey which tasted like caramel.


Gail told us all about the benefits of honey like the fig honey is good for people with asthma.  Local honey is good for people suffering with allergies.  In the Koran, it says that bees should be free.

Gail also let us try smen which is fermented butter… it tasted like cheese and was so creamy and delectable.

The group visited the public bakery where anybody can bring their own dough to be baked in the big oven.

Taking out the bread from the old oven

Any whole bread that isn’t eaten is brought back to this bakery.  It will be re-toasted to be given to the poor or to the donkeys.  It’s good to know that it’s not going to waste.  Gail said that the bakeries know everything since they know if a family is expecting guests or if somebody is looking for a potential love match.  This oven is 400-500 years old.

We visited another public place which had an oven that was fueled by wood chips.  Gail has used this to make her tagines.  She says it can take 6 hours to make one.

Moroccan street food

At the end, Gail picked out street food for our group.  Our group sat down to eat bessara (fava bean soup) and the street food which consisted of fried aubergine, chips (french fries), fish, peppers and crumbed liver.

I highly recommend the Souk Tasting Trails food tour since you try a lot of Moroccan food and learn a little about the Muslim culture.

Ivan and I got a taxi back to the square and we walked back to our riad where we relaxed and I worked on the blog.

Later, Ivan and I went to Restaurant Dar Hatim for dinner.  We were picked up by the son who runs the restaurant and driven to the restaurant.  His wife and his mom cook the food.  The traditional house has beautiful wood artwork on the ceiling.  The wife served us – she was all smiles and very friendly.

Moroccan salads at Dar Hatim

The free salads (starters) came out – it was definitely the most Moroccan salads we’ve gotten at a restaurant.

Ivan and I had some mint tea.  Alcohol isn’t on the menu at Restaurant Dar Hatim, but you can bring your own.  We didn’t see any liquor stores in Fez.  Our food tour guide Gail said the owners at our riad could probably buy wine for us, but we forgot to ask.

Chicken Pastilla

Ivan and I shared a vegetable cous cous and a chicken pastilla which is the wife’s specialty.

The pastilla costs more than a cous cous which is weird since it’s a lot smaller. I think it’s because it’s a hard dish to make since you’re dealing with filo dough. The pastilla was tasty and sweet since it has cinnamon in it. It came with powdered sugar if you wanted to make it even sweeter.

Dinner at the lovely Dar Hatim

The wife took us upstairs to see a room that’s almost finished.  Her brother is the artist who paints the beautiful wood on the ceiling and makes wood tables.


It was a great meal which came with so much food.  I highly recommend going to this restaurant to eat some quality food in a lovely traditional home.

Ivan couldn’t sleep for awhile probably since he had too much mint tea at dinner.


David Royale

On June 8, 2013, Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up early at 8:30 am.  Ivan and I had tea on the balcony and a slice of bread on the balcony.

Having breakfast on the balcony

Ivan reminded me that we would be eating a lot on a food tour soon.  Lil Dave went to explore the city more.

We met our guide Karen for the Taste Florence tour at La Norcineria.  Karen had a paper for us with different places we might go on the tour that included a map and space for notes.  I was happy since I always take notes during tours for the blog.

La Norcineria

She talked about the DOC/DOCG regulations for the food products.  This grocery store sells things like meat, wine and biscuits.  You can also buy boar meat here which is an organic meat that is lean.  Ivan and I both got to taste the Provolone Dolce (sweet) and a Picante.  The Picante cheese was better since it was sharper.  I also got a chance to try two Prosciuttos: di Parma and Tuscan.  Di Palma was sweet while Tuscan was salty.

Forno Bruschi Ivana was our next stop.  Ivan and I had a Schiaccata with artichoke and parmesan and a coccoli with mozzarella and tomato.  The Coccoli was delicious.  The breads are made on-site and they even deliver.

Our next stop was at the San Lorenzo Market.  Some stalls have remained traditional while some have become touristy.  The Market is open 7:30 am to 2 pm every day except Sunday.

We stopped at a stall called Nerbone – they’re known for their bollito di manzo (boiled beef brisket).  Ivan and I tasted the salsa verde (parsley, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, and capers) on bread which tasted great.

Eating a bollito di manzo

I got a bollito di manzo which was pretty good.

We got a short break to walk around the market.

San Lorenzo Market

Ivan and I each had an espresso and used the loo… then, we checked out the market.

Karen was very interesting and told us about the market.  They’ve been building a fruit market upstairs for 3 years but it’s still not done.

Ultima Spiaggia (The Last Beach) was our next stop in the market.  It’s a fish and chips shop.  We were served free white wine while waiting in line.

The guys at Ultima Spiaggia

Two of the guys who work there are easy on the eyes – it was term Karen had never heard of, but she understood what it meant even without explaining it.

Seafood mix at Ultima Spiaggia

The fried seafood mix we got here was so very tasty.

Karen led us to Enoteca Alessi.  It was time to have some wine, cheese and balsamic vinegar.  We walked down to the cellar which was filled with hundreds of bottles of wine.  It was really pretty down there.  We got bruschetta and a selection of cheeses to have with the wines.

Ivan with prosecco and bruschetta

Our first wine was a Prosecco.  It’s made with a minimum of 80’% of San Genovese grapes.  The wine was delicious.  The second wine was a Chianti Classico followed by a Carmignano.  The Carmignano was full bodied and tasted lovely.

Karen talking about wines

It was time for our balsamic vinegar tasting which we tried seven different kinds.  It kept making me cough since it’s so strong.  The saba and wine vinegar blend was really good and it’s good to put on ice cream, parmesan cheese and pasta.  Another vinegar was aged 12 years and is used as a medicine for sore throats.  The last vinegar was one of my favorites since it was very sweet since there’s a vanilla pod inside the bottle.

Ivan and I followed Karen to Vestri.  We got to try chocolates and gelato here.  Karen had a tray with 8 different chocolates.

8 different kinds of chocolates

Ivan’s favorite was dark chocolate and coffee and my favorite was a cinnamon chocolate.

Next, we were served up two gelatos: crema custard and raspberry sorbet.  The crema custard was very plain and boring.  The sorbet was simply delicious.

Our last stop was at I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi where we had a macchato which is an espresso with a stain (a small amount) of milk.

The Taste Florence food tour was wonderful.  I would highly recommend going on this tour.  You eats lots of great Italian food and learn a lot as well.

We walked around and I wanted to buy new shoes.  I think wearing my Northface sandals aren’t very good for my feet.  Bought a pair of pink Nike shoes at AW Lab.  Lil Dave joined us since we were going to see a famous statue soon.

We went on The Original David Tour.  Our tour guide told us about Michelangelo’s history.  He was only 20 years old when he created the beautiful Pieta statue.  Michelangelo was an arrogant guy which resulted in a fight that broke his nose and it never really healed right.

The David was supposed to go on the outside of the Duomo on the buttress, but was placed in Palazzo della Signoria.  It was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1873.

We went to the Accademia Museum to see the David statue.  It’s supposed to be a 15 year old boy, but really it’s the perfect man.

The beautiful David statue

David is about to fight Goliath.  From the front view, he looks ready, determined and confident.  His head, hands and feet are really big compared to the rest of his body.  But, David was going to be on top of the Duomo – so Michelangelo did this on purpose.

On the side view from the right, you notice his thick eyebrows and he looks scared and there’s a  moment of doubt.  I found that he looked rather sad.

The David statue is 14 feet tall.  The group’s next view of the statue was from the back.  The rock in his hand makes it steady.  Michelangelo put a small piece of wood behind the leg that makes the statue steady.  An x-ray found out that where that wood is placed is the weakest point of the statue.  Michelangelo must have been a genius to know that without having advanced technology available to him.

Lil Dave wanted to climb the statue, but that was a big taboo since the museum doesn’t even allow pictures of the David statue.

The last view was from the left side of the front view of the statue.  Our guide pointed out the veins in his arm, forearm and on his neck.  It showed how nervous he was about his upcoming fight with Goliath.

I was really moved by finally seeing the David statue… I actually got tears in my eyes.  I’m a big fan of Michelangelo’s work.  It’s a beautiful statue and our guide thinks that you see something different every time you view it.  I hope I get more chances to see it.

Our guide said that Michelangelo’s friend said “You don’t have to see any other artists if you’ve seen Michelangelo’s work.  This tour is a definite must since you skip the line for the museum and it’s great to hear more about Michelangelo.

Ivan found us a taxi and we got it back to the bed & breakfast.  We grabbed our luggage and headed to the airport.

We flew from Florence to Barcelona, Spain.  We checked in to the Airbnb apartment we stayed at the first time which is right on La Rambla.

Later that night, we had dinner at Tapas Royale with lots of tapas and a glass of red wine.

We went to the back to the bar for dancing.  Unfortunately, the music was too lounge-y to really get into.  We danced for a little bit before heading back.

Source: David picture


Rome Food Tour

At 6:40 am on June 5, 2013, there was a loud knock on the door.  We assumed it was room service.  Another knock was heard, louder this time.

It turned out to be two Security guards and Terry Gattis.  They informed Ivan that he had to leave the Norwegian Epic cruise ship by 7:30 am by order of the Capitan.  Ivan asked why… but was just told to pack his stuff and get out by 7:30am. Nothing in writing..nothing from the captain..nothing official whatsoever.

We had to leave early anyway as we had a food tour book in Rome, so were planning to be off the boat by 7.30am anyway regardless of the fact that we were being kicked off the boat.

We were actually ready to leave by 7:15 pm, but then they started saying that we COUDLN’T leave as officials had to come. They blocked us in the room and kept Ivan prisoner there.

I went to tell Denise and Ken that we would meet them at the train station and there was trouble, but I didn’t go into detail.

Finally, left at 7:45 am.  We didn’t get anything in writing.  I bet they’ll claim that we voluntarily left the boat and there’s no record of it.  They also didn’t help us with flights which they said they would.

We got a shuttle to Civitavecchia and walked to the train station.  We missed our food tour because of the stupid commotion and ended taking the later train.

We got a hotel room near the train station at Hotel Hollywood.  They were very friendly to us.

Thankfully, Ivan rescheduled our food tour for later today.  We went to the Vatican to meet up with Ivan’s family and D.

St. Peter's Square

We walked around the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square.  I sent a postcard from the Vatican to my sister-in-law.


I took pictures while Ivan tried looking for Denise, Ken, Neal and D.  He called them and they were waiting across the street.

Everybody popped into a souvenir shop that has a toilet and lots of Catholic related souvenirs.  I bought a few things for my family.

We said good-bye since they walked around Rome for hours and wanted to get back to the cruise ship.

Ivan thought it was a good idea to stop for an espresso since we were going on a food tour later.  The café we stopped in had cool décor.

Cool decor in the cafe

It also sold lots of books and old pictures.

Ivan and I stopped at a bar to have a glass of limonchello.  It’s fun to walk around the streets of Rome and find a nice place to have a drink or something to eat.

We walked to Piazza Farnese to meet up with our guide for the Rome Food Walking Tour which took us through Trastevere, Campo di Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto  Her name was Francesca.  The group consisted of just me and Ivan.

One of our first stops was at Ruggeri Delicatessen which is an old grocery store in Campo di Fiori.

Me with salami

I got to try the salami and we both tasted the bufala mozzarella and pecorino romano.  The mozzarella is so fresh.  It’s not refrigerated  and should be use within two days.

Our next stop was at a Forno which is a bakery.

Lots of things to try at the Forno

We tried the pizza bianca which is really popular.. which we’re not really sure why since it’s only bread with olive oil on it.  We found it really boring.  Ivan and I also tried bread with tomato on it.  I tried bread with mortadella which is ham that’s flavored with spices.  The mortadella was mild and tasted good.

Walked through the Jewish Ghetto which is now a luxurious place to live.

Fontana delle Tartarughe

It’s always sad to hear the stories about the Jews that were taken away because of the Nazis during World War II.  There are plaques in the road in front of the houses that states what happened to the people who lived there.

We stopped at a little unassuming restaurant for supplì and fried cod.

A tasty supplì

Supplì sounds like it would be soup but it’s actually a fried rice ball with tomato sauce.  Both tasted great.

Francesca was full of knowledge about food and the history of Rome.

A street in Trastevere

Our last neighborhood was Trastevere.  I love this part of Rome since it’s a beautiful area with lots of greenery.

Our second to last stop was Sette Oche in Altalena Reclamavano la Cena – whew! that’s a mouthful.  Ivan and I each got a bowl of Cacio e Pepe pasta.  It’s a dish with lots of Pecorino and pepper.

Me with tasty cacio e pepe pasta

It’s one of my favorite pastas in Italy.  Ivan and I enjoyed our pasta with a lovely glass of red.

It was off to a gelato shop called Fior di Luna.  Our guide told us that we could pick 2 or 3 flavors.  Ivan tried strawberry and chocolate while I got banana and dark chocolate.

Ivan with his gelato

The banana was so good – it tasted like I was eating a banana.  Yummy!  It was a sweet way to end this great tour.  I recommend this tour if you want to try lots of great Italian food.

We were so tired and stuffed, so we headed back to the hotel.

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