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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
One of my favorite photos in Bellagio
Steep staircases and delicious food in Bellagio
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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).
Last month, I had a business trip to Turin and Milan, Italy. While it was a jam-packed and busy trip, there was still plenty of time to enjoy the magnificent food in Italy. I’ll start with highlights from Milan.
Trattoria del Pescatore in Milan
One of my Italian colleagues is also a big foodie and he had recommended a couple of restaurants in Milan. He raved about Trattoria del Pescatore (Via Atto Vannucci, 5). I ended up eating there last minute and I kept calling in hopes of making a lunch reservation. Since they didn’t pick up the phone, I showed up right when they opened at 12:30pm (hence the photo of an empty restaurant). The restaurant owners and waiters were so kind to me and gave me a corner seat. I ordered the bottarga (salted cured roe) and clams spaghetti and Catalan-style lobster. The lobster is not for the faint of heart. It’s definitely a lot of work to eat. I rolled up my sleeves, used my lobster cracker and dug in with my fingers. While the lobster flesh was incredibly tasty, it was much smaller than I expected and expensive. I’d gladly go back and try other dishes. Reservations are an absolute must. The place was packed and they had to turn people away. I really enjoyed the atmosphere because the customers were all locals and a lot of them were regulars. It was really fun to watch the interaction of the staff with some of their most loyal customers.
Giulio Pane e Ojo in Milan
Giulio Pane e Ojo (Via Ludovico Muratori, 10) was also recommended to me for their Roman-style food. It was a really quaint restaurant and extremely popular. I enjoyed a delicious bucatini with a slightly spicy tomato sauce with slices of pancetta and a beautiful medium-rare steak. I basically ate red meat every chance I could get since the steak in China is so expensive. Giulio Pane e Ojo must be written up in a lot of tourist reviews because the entire restaurant was foreigners. Next to me was a Russian couple, across from me was British couple and on the other side of the room was a table full of Americans. It didn’t quite have that same local Italian feel that Trattoria del Pescatore had.
Il Giardino dei Segreti in Milan
I’ve written about Il Giardino de Segreti (Via Pasquale Sottocorno, 17) before, but I had to mention it again. It was the best meal I had in Milan and it was just as good as I remembered. It’s the best bottarga spaghetti I’ve ever had and the tagliata (rare meat) was amazing. The tagliata is very thinly sliced beef and they serve it rare. I made the mistake of ordering it medium rare. Since the plate it’s served on is very hot, the beef actually continues to cook after being served. So my medium rare became too well-done for my taste. It’s better to just let them serve it their classic house style.