Florence | La Menagere

 

Once upon a time, I was a camp counselor and had a hilarious camper named Grant. We would sit in the craft shed- me, a fresh college graduate, and him, a quick-witted 14 year-old, laughing and talking throughout afternoon in the Arkansas heat. Fast-forward 10 years. Grant has recently moved to Florence and works as a colleague of mine in our Florence program.

While we are here this summer, we get to see Grant everyday and he has been giving us a fresh look at a city we love so much. We get great facts along our walks through the city, funny translations of Italian and, most importantly, the great new spots to go to when in Florence.

La Menagere is a place that Grant picked out for us to try long before our arrival. When we ventured into town one day, the mood felt right and we scurried over that way. Walking up to it, I knew that- 100% sure- this was a place I would love. (I am pretty sure that you will, too!)

 

LA MENAGERE

 

When you first walk in, you're going to notice the amazing design of this space. The interiors are very cool- almost as if built as a set for a Nancy Meyers movie.

 

 

Then, you'll notice the chic army of waiters quietly scurrying around the restaurant. From their denim aprons to their perfecty-groomed facial hair, they somehow match the setting as if an interior designer worked them into her plans.

 

 

Now, for the important part: the food.  Expect traditional items with a twist for the menu. We started with the Insalata Caprese- hot & cold. It consisted of a tomato soup with basil croutons and an island of mozzerella ice cream. It was a fun version of something that I've had a hundred times before... but in a way that didn't feel sacreligious.

 

 

For the mains, we all tried something different. Toasted gnocchis, cocoa raviolis and a candied lemon and poppyseed risotto with salty cheese. The combinations were unlikely, but the execution was perfect.

 

We made it a real party and brought our friends, Mat & Kelsey + their kids. I wouldn't say this restaurant is best enjoyed with kids, but I will say they did an awesome job taking care of ours. They had high chairs and offered to make simple options for them that weren't listed on the menu. Plus, there is a lot of space to walk around and explore while you wait for food without feeling like everyone is staring at you.

 

 

Put La Menagere on your list for your trip to Florence. Whether you are stopping by to pick up a small item from their cool boutique, a coffee from their bistro or a formal lunch- this is a great stop for any foodies & design-hounds headed to Italy.

 

LA MENAGERE | Via de'Ginori 8r. Florence, 50123. +39.055.0750.600. Open daily from 07:00am - 02:00am. 

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on August 22, 2016 and filed under eat, italy, travel.

Tuscany Day Trip: San Gimignano

 

Image my surprise when I woke up this morning and came to finish this post... but realized that I had actually posted it live yesterday half finished. Oops! Well, the notes are now removed and the actual links and comments are available now.

 

The last time we spent August in Tuscany was our first summer living abroad- nearly five years ago! That summer, Tyler & I spent our days here bumping around the hillside roads in a beatup FIAT Panda and loved to venture out into all the small villages and towns nearby that we could get to in the day.

Not only did I make this video of our trips (that I watch on bad days far more than I'm proud to admit), but I also started a little blogging series on Tuscany Day Trips. Since I won't be making a video this time around, I thought the least that I could do is continue my day trip series.

 


 

SAN GIMIGNANO

If you're staying in or around Florence, San Gimignano is an easy place to go for a day trip. You can either venture out to this small medeival town through a bust tour that leaves from Florence, like this one or drive yourself in a rent car. The drive from Florence is just about an hour.

I'd go early in the day, as parking is limited and the sooner you get there- the less time you'll spend going up and down the roads around the town in search of a spot to park. (We went at lunch time and it took forever!)

Regardless of the limited parking and the hot sunny August weather, we had a marvelous day. This charming town is the perfect mix of Italian culture, history and ease put into one spot. It's location between Florence and Siena make it an easy destination regardless of where you are staying. So whether you spend the day exploring some of the 14 medieval tours that are still standing or simply wandering from eatery to eatery to find the best scenic views- you'll be inevitably charmed by San Gimignano.

 

 

EAT

RICCAPIZZA | Since it took so long to find a parking spot, by the time we reached San Gimignano, the natives were fairly restless. We decided to forgo the trauma that would come from us all enduring a long lunch somewhere and, instead, jumped in the quick-moving queue at PizzaRicco and grabbed a giant box of pizza for lunch.

GELATERIA DONDOLI | This gelateria, convienently placed in Piazza della Cisterna, is a famous stop for most tourists to pass through San Gimignano. With creative flavors like olive and champelmo (champagne and pink grapefuit) make it more than your normal ice cream stop. It's definitely worth waiting in the quick-moving line to try a cone for yourself.

TRATTORIA CHIRIBIRI | If you're looking for perfect Tuscan dishes- think big plates of Tuscan meats and cheeses, white beans cooked for hours in a stew-like tomato base and thick bowls of riboliita- all in an atmosphere that fits the 14th century village surroundings, look no further. This place won't disappoint.

 

DO

PIAZZA DELLA CISTERNO | This main square in the town is named after the well (or "cistern") that sits in the middle. You'll find this is the main deposit of visitors from the town that have entered through the main city entrance, Porta San Giovanni. From Piazza della Cisterna, you'll be at a major axis point for reaching the rest of the city.

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Has anyone stayed in San Gimignano? Would love to hear some recommendations for great places to spend the night there to get the full experience.... after all the tourists like us have left for the day!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on August 16, 2016 and filed under day trips, italy, travel.

A Welcome Home: Return to Tuscany

 

If you have followed this blog before we became paretns, you might remember a former version of ourselves. Not just ones that were less crazy and a bit better looking.... but a couple that LOVED Italy so much that we couldn't help but jump there as often as possible. When I was pregnant with the girls, I went three times, but since kids....

Well, we have been so busy traveling for work and to see family, that our sporadic and frequent Italian jaunts have ceased.... until now. This August, we decided to spend it on a family holiday for just the four of us. We are staying at the same place where I have spent so many great days making memories and it feels like a warm homecoming to be back here.

We are staying outside of Florence surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. To city-dwellers like us, it seems as if we have our own country. To city-dwelling kids like ours, it seems like we have our own planet.

The kids wake up in the middle of the night and point out to the garden. "There! There!" Harrison yells out to the pitch dark outside begging for more time to wander around the crunchy rain-starved grass in search of rocks and sticks.

But when the daylight finally arrives, we walk out to the garden and start the day. We spend the mornings sitting on a swing together with coffee and brioche. The pre-packaged kind because all the local bakeries are closed for August and we kinda love the crunchy sugar on top.

 

At lunch time, we typically venture out somewhere nearby- like San Gimignano or Lucca- to squeeze in a casual lunch with a view... and, of course, the obligatory afternoon gelato.

By the time it's late afternoon, we are back to the villa with enough time to play and crank out some dinner.

 

After that, the kids take a bath, go to bed... and Tyler & I sigh a big sigh of exhausted relief as we head up to the terrace to watch the sunset together. By this time in the day, we are half-asleep and half-pinching ourselves of the day we just had.

 

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It's one of the laziest vacations that I know of, but it's also, without a doubt, our very very favorite. It feels so good to be back here and I'm not sure I'll ever loose that place in my heart that beats for Italy.

Does anyone else feel the same way about Italy? I'd love to hear your favorit pare here and why it is special to you!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on August 15, 2016 and filed under italy, life, travel.

All is Wright With The World.

 

I often hear bloggers say that "blogging is dead." With social media offering so much variety, people feel that blogs are a dying art. Maybe that's true, but I think we (as bloggers) can't lay all the blame on social media's popularity. I think part of it comes with how bloggers have changed since their starting days.

And so, maybe blogging is dying. Maybe it isn't. But I want to post a post that feels like one I might have posted a few years back.... back before things were so glossy and blog posts all seemed perfect. It isn't part of a series. It isn't sponsored. It has no purpose other than sharing a small part of my day that was great.

And by great, I mean.... fresh-warm-baked-foccacia-the-size-of-small-tires great.

 

 

I bought this little packet on Ocado (delivered groceries! 0.99!) because it had great reviews. To be honest, I wondered if I would ever get around to actually making it because, well, it seemed ambitious even if it was a mix.

 

 

But Tyler got up with the kids this morning letting me sleep for 12 hours in the first time in.... I honestly don't know. I woke up and felt like I could do something miraculous.... And since I'm in no shape for a physical endeavor, I opted for baking. It ended up being so fun and rewarding. Thank you, Wrights Baking, for making me feel like a winner today.

 

 

It was just the right amount of easy + homemaker to make me super satisified..... and the whole process turned out three pans of foccacia bread. So, yeah, we can say the return on investment was high.

 

 

Honestly, I have no idea why I am even posting this... is it really noteworthy to remember making bread from a mix? Not really, but here's the truth: a lot of days we are just hustling to keep it all together. So, when a day comes along, where I feel totally rested, my kids are being great and I actually suceed at a culinary attempt- I guess it feels like a bigger deal than it is.

 

 

So here's to celebrating the little things... and little ones, too. In the midst of craziness, I need to remember to celebrate them, too!

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

Posted on August 2, 2016 and filed under babies, eat, home, kids, life.

A Posh Picnic with the Queen...and Dukes, too.

 

I was looking for a fun day out for my friend, Amber, before she had her baby girl. Since it wasn't her first baby, we agreed that she wasn't in need of swaddling muslins, bottles or diapers... but probably could go for a little "me" time before the baby arrived.

We were stuck in between doing another afternoon tea (not complaining! just wanting to shake things up a bit!) and jaunting away for the day somewhere fabulous (felt like so much effort!)... in the midst of this planning pergatory, I heard about Dukes Hotel's Picnic in the Park and knew it would be perfect.

 

Why, you may ask, did I think a picnic would be a good fit? I'll keep it simple with some bullet points.

 

WHY WE SAID 'YES' TO DUKES PICNIC IN THE PARK:

1. It was a luxury meal that we didn't have to make or prepare.

2. It came in an adorable stripey hamper and was served to us by a butler.

3. It only costs £35 per person, so it wouldn't break the bank.

4. We could sit alongside Buckingham Palace as we ate... which, if we are honest, is as close are we will be getting to lunching with Lizzy anytime soon.

 

And did the outing living up to our experience? YES. It was such a refreshing day out for both us doing something easy while feeling very extraordinary!

Our butler was so sweet and very attentive. He met us at the hotel when we arrived and walked us to the park.

When we got to Green Park, he let us choose where we wanted to set up camp, laid out everything for us, poured our drinks and then left his number for us to call should we need anything. He came back every so often to check on us and bring us sill things that we requested.

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The actual picnic itself was really good- light and fresh. As all picnic food can be, it was a bit messy by the time it made it across the park and out of saran wrap. But we quickly fluffed everything up with a fork though and tidied it up to restore it back to its full potential. The cous cous salad and piri piri chicken skewers were exceptionally tasty.

And there's no better way to celebrate an upcoming birth than with some baby-friendly fizz!

 

As we lounged around Green Park like we were Roman nobility, people kept strolling by and gawking at us like we were pretty fancy. (Which made us giggle a lot.) By having a butler serve you a picnic does get a bit more attention than our normal picnic spread of M&S sandwiches, juice boxes and plastic hummus cartons.

 

 

This posh picnic in the park from Duke's Hotel in Mayfair is a definite winner for an exciting London experience. I'd recommend it to anyone- tourist or local alike. It's a fun and tasty option for enjoying the city in a really special way!

 

DUKES MAYFAIR | St James Place, London SW1A 1NY.  +44 (0)207 491 4840



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*our picnic was complimentary. review is my own.

 

Posted on August 1, 2016 and filed under babies, england, eat, london, pregnancy.