Lugano Wedding at Castello di Morcote

rbjello|Picturesque Lugano Wedding

Picturesque Locale for a Lugano Wedding

The downside to living in China is that I’m missing all of my friends’ weddings. It’s just too difficult to fly halfway around the world to attend ceremonies when my vacation (and monetary funds) are limited. When one of my closest friends from my MBA program announced over a year ago that she was going to get married in Lugano, I made it my goal to attend. It was an absolutely stunning wedding at Castello di Morcote, an old castle from the 15th century that is now a vineyard.

Apertivo

Apertivo

In true Italian style, we had an apertivo at the top of the mountain with an awesome band and fantastic views of the lake. After the sun set, we moved to a private tent to enjoy dinner.

Lugano Wedding2

It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was so happy to be a part of the celebration. This trip was especially meaningful to me because I didn’t attend my MBA graduation in Paris (I was at a job interview in China). Another one of my classmates travelled from Tokyo to attend and the three of us hadn’t been reunited in over two years. It was a double celebration– a wedding and a reunion!

Lago di Lugano

Lago di Lugano

Lugano City Center + Food!

Lugano City Center + Food!

Lugano is a charming city and very reminiscent of Lake Como. The city center revolves around the lake and I loved just how quaint the whole city was. It’s very walkable and there were tons of restaurants and fresh fruit/produce markets. The food was also absolutely delicious and we feasted on pasta and pizza. Obviously, the prices are more expensive in Switzerland compared to Italy, but nothing disappointed our palates.

Lugano Boat Ride

Boat Ride

Colorful Houses in Lugano

Colorful Houses in Lugano

One activity that I would HIGHLY recommend is renting out a small, motorized boat for an hour or two to explore the lake. Keep an eye out for boats that have a small, built-in awning so you have some shade in the hot heat. While you could rent a paddle boat, that is absolutely exhausting and not relaxing. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences to be out on the open water and admiring all of the houses.

If you have a chance to visit Lugano, I’d recommend staying at Hotel Walter au Lac. It a boutique hotel that is located right on the lake and in the center of the city. It’s extremely convenient and gives you a chance to really enjoy what Lugano has to offer!

Congratulations to the Happy Couple!

Congratulations to the Happy Couple!

Lake Como and the City of Bellagio

rbjello|Lake Como

Lake Como

It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Lake Como and that dream finally became a realization this summer. I took a day tour from Milan with Zani Viaggi to visit this famous lake. From Milan, a bus drove us to the city of Como where we visited some sights and then took a two hour boat road to the city of Bellagio. I can definitely see why George Clooney has a villa in Como. It seems like the perfect summer vacation spot. My photos can’t really do justice to just how beautiful the scenery was, but I wanted to share a few.

Lake Como2

Lake Como3

Lake Como4

Moltrasio Port

Bellagio was also a gem. This small city was filled with steep staircases and little stores and restaurants hidden in alleyways. I had a relaxing lunch at La Fontana of fresh pacherri pasta with zucchini and clams and some awesome gelato at Gelateria del Borgo. There were plenty of shops selling handmade Italian leather goods and cookware.

rbjello|Bellagio

One of my favorite photos in Bellagio

Steep staircases and delicious food in Bellagio

Steep staircases and delicious food in Bellagio

Bellagio Port

Bellagio Port

From Bellagio, the bus drove us back to Milan, just in time for dinner. I would highly recommend booking the Lake Como day tour with Zani Viaggi. Our tour guide was extremely friendly and knowledgable and all the logistics were handled very well. You can book a day trip through Viator.com.

Lake Como Cruise

Lake Como Cruise

Milan World Expo

Milan Expo: Tree of Life

Milan Expo: Tree of Life

Milan is currently hosting the world expo with the theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life until October 31, 2015. This was actually my second world expo as I was able to visit the Shanghai World Expo back in 2010. At the expo, each participating country develops a pavilion, which helps to showcase the country’s culture and highlight the expo’s theme. It’s a unique opportunity to see some cool architecture as some countries get really creative with their pavilions.

Expo Entrance Line

Expo Entrance Line

I’m not going to lie. Visiting the expo is like visiting Disneyland. Most of the popular pavilions have long lines and you feel like you’re waiting in line for a ride. Compound that with the summer heat and you have a long day ahead of you. It’s definitely worth visiting, but I recommend trying to go on a weekday or even doing the after 7pm night tickets (which are also cheaper). My friend and I went on a Sunday, arrived at 10:30am (expo opens at 10am) and we had to wait an hour just to pass through security.

Brazil Pavilion

Brazil Pavilion

Top left (clockwise): China Pavilion; Ecuador Pavilion, Vietnam Pavilion; and Holland Pavilion

Top left (clockwise): China Pavilion; Ecuador Pavilion, Vietnam Pavilion; and Holland Pavilion

Of the different countries we visited, I really liked Brazil and Holland. Brazil has an impressive two-story pavilion where the upper level is a giant net that you walk across. I felt like Holland really embraced the food theme because they did a bunch of street carts with Dutch snacks. Italy also had a nice section because each province had its own stand, highlighting the local food and produce from the region.

America Pavilion and Food Truck Central

America Pavilion and Food Truck Central

It probably sounds silly that I ended up eating at USA’s Food Truck Nation stop, but I don’t feel as guilty since I only get to go back to the States once a year. My friend got a cheeseburger and I ordered a New England-style lobster roll. The cheeseburger wasn’t impressive (dry), but the lobster roll was amazing. The bread was a nice soft roll, which was buttered, and filled with fresh lobster. It totally hit the spot, making me a little less homesick.

So is the world expo worth visiting? Yes, I would definitely say it’s worth visiting if you’re in the Northern Italy area. But make sure you wear comfortable shoes, pack a bottle of water and be prepared to wait in some long lines.

Milan Street Eats

Milan: cioccolati italiani gelato

Milan: Cioccolati Italiani gelato

This summer was quite busy with two trips to Italy (one for work and one for play) and so there’s plenty of delicious Milan street eats to share! Probably one of my favorite gelato shops is Cioccolati Italiani (Via San Raffaele 6), which is right behind Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The best part about this place is that you can choose a flavor of melted chocolate (white, milk or dark) to add to your cone. Talk about the best idea ever! It reminded me of being a kid and eating a Nestle Drumstick and having the last bite be filled with delectable chocolate. While they are famous for their chocolate flavors, I find them too rich (it was the first time I couldn’t finish my gelato). I definitely prefer the fruit and yogurt or fruit and fior di latte combination.

Luini Panzerotti

Luini Panzerotti

Right across the street from Cioccolati Italiani is the famous Luini Panzerotti (Via Santa Radegonda,16). Panzerotti is basically a mini calzone but with a more fluffy dough. Luini offers sweet and salty panzerotti that are either baked or fried. My friend and I ordered one fried ham and mozzarella and one ricotta and cheese. The sweet one did not do much for me because they’re baked and with a more cookie-like dough. The savory one was definitely more promising, but I almost wish they could be served hotter and fresher. With a huge line out the door, they already have them prepared and in a glass case so I can understand wanting to move the line quickly. Considering the hype, it was a little disappointing. I’d recommend saving more room in your stomach for gelato.

Spontini Pizza

Spontini Pizza

One of the best things that I ate was the deep dish pizza at Spontini (Via Santa Radegonda 11). There are quite a few of them in Milan, but the one I ate at was also close to Luini. This pizzeria is super casual and only has standing tables to eat at. They only offer three types of pizza, but it’s reasonably priced at about 3-5 EUR/piece. I loved this pizza and it’s piled high with fresh tomato sauce and LOTS of cheese.

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Shanghai: Brunch at Liquid Laundry and Cambio Coffee

Liquid Laundry

Liquid Laundry

I’ve already talked about dinner at Liquid Laundry (1028 Huaihai Zhong Lu; 淮海中路1028号), but I think I discovered one of my favorite brunch spots. I’m not the only one who must share this opinion because it was nearly impossible to make brunch reservations.

Green Eggs & Ham and a Bacon Flight

Green Eggs & Ham and a Bacon Flight

I literally wanted to order everything on the menu, but my friend and I settled on green eggs and ham, a bacon flight and Korean fried chicken sandwich. My green eggs and ham was seed toast topped with poached eggs, avocado, ham, spinach, and Goddess dressing. I could not believe how big the portion was. The toast was a thick slice of bread with two perfectly poached eggs and a healthy dose of avocado. I really enjoyed the combination of everything on my plate and was happy to share it because I couldn’t even finish. Our bacon flight came with three flavors: sweet maple, spicy habanero and coffee cured. The bacon is delicious, but the spicy habanero is not for the faint of heart. It was SO spicy, but the type of spicy that creeps up on you and feels like is burning a hole in your mouth.

Liquid Laundry Fried Chicken Sandwich

Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich

I loved this fried chicken sandwich. The bun was soft and fluffy, the chicken was crispy and moist, and the Sriracha aioli with coleslaw had the perfect kick. I think the best surprise was the fact that they add bits of ramen noodles for that extra crunch (seriously genius). I can’t wait to go back and eat that sandwich again. I appreciate that Liquid Laundry serves American-sized portions and it’s the perfect place to go with a group of friends so you can share a bunch of dishes.

Cambio Coffee

Cambio Coffee

Shanghai is finally starting to get a little bit warmer and it begs for catching up with friends over a nice cup of coffee. I’ve been on the hunt for new cafés and came across Cambio Coffee (861 Jiangning Lu; 江宁路861号). It’s a small place with a few indoor and outdoor seats.

Drinks at Cambio Coffee

Drinks at Cambio Coffee

I had a cappuccino and while it wasn’t life-changing, it was a solid cup of coffee. I liked that it was a little bit quieter than Sumerian, which is always packed on the weekends and rarely has free tables. The only downside to Cambio is that it’s not really close to any metro stops. While it’s a great place to grab a cup of coffee if you’re in the neighborhood, I don’t think I’d go out of my way just to get coffee there.

Shanghai: Healthy Eats at Hunter Gatherer

Meal at Hunter Gatherer

Meal at Hunter Gatherer

One of my friends recently asked me if I knew of any gluten-free restaurants in Shanghai. I had zero clue, but I suggested Hunter Gatherer (308 Anfu Rd; 安福路308号) as it had been on my radar as a healthy option. It didn’t feel right recommending a restaurant that I had never tried before so I decided to check it off my list.

Grocery Concept Store

Grocery Concept Store

Hunter Gatherer is a two-story hybrid grocery store/fast casual eatery. Throughout the store, you’ll find fresh organic veggies, artisanal sauces, healthy snacks and even a DIY peanut butter and almond butter machines. It’s really quite impressive and reminded me of Green & Safe in the French Concession. Besides the myriad of groceries, you can also sit down for a quick meal.

Pre-made Meals

Pre-made Meals

For 62 RMB, you can have a Chipotle-style, nourishing bowl. My understanding is that the menu rotates based on a seasonal produce, but you start with a base, add a protein and then pick two veggie sides. My plate had a quinoa and spinach base, oven-roasted chicken, brussels spouts and an apple & kale salad. For 20 RMB more, you can add a bowl of soup.

Meal Options at Hunter Gatherer

Meal Options at Hunter Gatherer

It’s not a huge portion so if you tend to eat more, I’d recommend getting a bowl of soup or saving room for one of their baked goods. The food is a solid meal for a fresh and healthy option. The chicken was very tender and actually moist and I ended up like the brussels sprouts best out of my assortment plate. It’s not terribly flavorful food, but they have a wide variety of different homemade sauces that you can use to liven up your bowl (their hot sauce definitely had some heat).

Hunter Gatherer Seating Area

Hunter Gatherer Seating Area

I like that there are more healthy options in Shanghai and hope the trend continues. While I was sitting there, I felt like I was in a hip grocery store in New York or San Francisco. I would definitely go back and happily recommend it to any friends who had dietary restrictions (or just plain wanted to eat healthy).