Last day of 2009

Today we woke up to this view:

Ate breakfast at this table:

Went for a dip in the Mediterranean on this beach, which we had all to ourselves:

Went for a walk around Positano:

Saw this sunset:

Now drinking Campari and snacking on fresh buffalo mozzarella and the yummiest green olives ever while listening to the ocean. Eagerly anticipating upcoming dinner featuring fresh ravioli and grilled veggies and rapini, and dessert of cannoli and other pastries. After that we’ll go party on the beach with the locals.

2010, I hope you manage to top this day. It won’t be easy.


The photos don’t begin to do it justice but ringing in the new year on the beach in Positano was amazing. There were fireworks everywhere you looked, coming from the tops of the hills, the beach where we were standing, and everywhere in between. The band playing southern Italian songs was the icing on the cake.

Happy New Year!

Related Post: Lounging around on the Amalfi Coast

Greetings from Naples

I probably won’t be online much in the next couple days, so here’s wishing you all a good slide into the new year.

The Best of Munich’s Christmas Markets

It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of Christmas market season already. Time flies when you’re chugging glühwein. I have been hard at work sampling the city’s seasonal markets in order to bring you this post, my awards for the best bits that Munich’s Christmas markets have to offer.

Best Glühwein – Schwabing
Glühwein (hot mulled wine) taste and quality varies greatly from markt to markt and vendor to vendor, but the only glühwein I had this year which made me jump up and say “whoa, that’s tasty!’ was the ginger glühwein we had that the uppermost food stall at the Schwabing market. The white glühwein from the same stand (billed as a ‘Schwabinger’, I believe) is also decent.

Best Feuerzangenbowle – Mittelaltermarkt
Probably the most expensive feuerzangenbowle (another hot wine beverage) out there, but also the most delicious. Rummy and not too sweet, it’s served in a fancy goblet with a sugar cube lit on fire.

Runner up: Rindermarkt. Served in cute clay cups, the Rindermarkt version is yummy but sadly lacking flames of any sort.

Best Live Entertainment – Schwabing
Country line-dancing Germans. Enough said.

Best Setting – Chinesischer Turm
This market in the middle of the English Garden is even more adorable when covered in snow.

Runner up: Marienplatz. I usually avoid this one because of the overwhelming crowds, but I have to admit there’s something gorgeous about a Christmas market nestled into Munich’s picturesque main square.

Best Performance Art – Tollwood
Meet our new igloo-dwelling animal-hoof-wearing friends, Babok.

Best Food – Schwabing
Schwabing is running away with a lot of these awards, isn’t it? The variety and deliciousness of Schwabing’s Christmas market food is hard to argue, though. I had a delicious plate of Eritrean veggies there this year.

Runner up: Tollwood. There’s a tent full of international delights, plus plenty of stalls offering staples such as falafel and crepes.

Best Shopping – um, uh, Tollwood?
I confess I hate shopping, so I rarely if ever do it. The only things I buy at Christmas markets are consumables. Anyone have a recommendation for the best Munich Christmas market to shop at? I named Tollwood because it definitely has the most shopping, but we all know quantity does not necessarily equal quality. I actually wanted to declare Schwabing as the best place to shop, in part because we found this great hanging Jesus (his arms and the donkey’s tail move when the string is pulled) there, but in the end the tent full of terrible, horrible, very bad paintings absolutely cancels out the awesomeness of whatever else you can find at this markt. I believe one of the paintings was entitled ‘Don’t Drop the Soap’. It was a couple paintings away from the giant three-dimensional resin vagina.

And on that note, I think I’ll wrap it up! (But remind me to tell you a funny vagina story from my trip to London sometime.) Alas, you’ll probably have to wait until next year to actually try out any of my fabulous recommendations, since today was the last day of all of the markets except for Tollwood, part of which is open for another week. Not sure whether the Baboks will still have their igloo parked there.

Happy holidays to all my readers! (Well, except for the angry Swiss dude who reads this just so he can find things wrong with my opinions. Bah humbug to you.) I’m off to pack for my next adventure.

Gratuitous sledding pictures from Wallberg

Making the most out of our recent snow, yesterday some friends and I headed up the Wallbergbahn for some extreme sledding. The run takes about 30 minutes and affords amazing views of the Tegernsee and surroundings, although sometimes it’s a little too scary to admire the view when you’re barreling down a narrow path next to a steep cliff on a barely-steerable wooden contraption.

Last winter I made a post about sledding in this same location using quite similar photos. Now that we’ve lived in Munich for almost two years, I suppose I’m bound to start repeating myself. Get used to it.

Munich’s Christmas Markets: Praterinsel

OK, one last Christmas market to report on: the Praterinsel Weihnachtsmarkt. Nestled in a woody spot next to the river, this market is one of the smaller ones in central Munich. The outdoor area consists of only a handful of stands, offering not much more than glühwein and crepes. There are a handful of high and low tables where you can relax with a hot alcoholic (beverage) and enjoy that I’m-in-the-center-of-Munich-but-it-feels-like-I’m-in-the-woods feeling.

I have to confess, the glühwein tasted a bit off to me at this market, but my savory crepe was more than edible.

There’s also a small indoor gift market, with items ranging from hand-painted ceramic mushrooms to exotic spices to adjustable mattresses. Outdoors there’s a specialty Italian food vendor, whose wares are surely overpriced but just as sure to make delicious Christmas gifts. I probably would have snapped up some smoked scamorza and dried porcini if I weren’t heading off to Italy in a few days.

Coming soon: The Best of Munich’s Christmas Markets, in which I tell you where to go to get your glühwein on, and where to find the best hanging decorations with moving Jesus arms and donkey tails.

Munich’s Christmas Markets: Bogenhausen

Since I already posted about most of Munich’s Christmas markets last year, I’ve been skipping the play-by-play this time around. But don’t let that worry you; rest assured I am silently guzzling down the glühwein and feuerzangenbowle all over town.

Munich does have one brand new market this year, so I figured it could have a post all its own. Bogenhausen is Munich’s rich and snooty neighborhood, so naturally we were expecting an expensive and snooty Christmas market.

The arts and handicrafts available for sale were actually quite nice; definitely a cut above the usually Christmas market kitsch. The food was average, as was the live entertainment. The hot beverages are served in an adorable variety of mugs. The feuerzangenbowle comes served with a flaming, rum-soaked sugar cube in a contraption which is definitely the closest thing I’ve ever seen to actual ‘zangen':

The Bogenhausen Christmas market is located at the Arabellapark ubahn stop, so it’s far from the most central of the markets, but if you find yourself in the neighborhood it’s worth checking out.

Things I did and did not do this week

I DID host a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people, and it was wonderful.

I DID NOT make a turkey. The lovely and multi-talented Headbang8 and Kim tackled that task. Everyone was quite impressed with the outcome. I hear the job involved sawing off necks (alas, no photos of that).

I DID make a couple pumpkin pies from scratch, meaning I started with an actual pumpkin. Four of them, actually. And I made NPR’s most unusual cranberry relish, which people seemed to love, horseradish and all.

I DID enjoy the fact that Munich’s Christmas markets are finally open. We started the season with some gloriously flaming feuerzangenbowle at Tollwood.

And last but not least, I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT participate in this week’s Moment of Starlings flashmob, even though there’s a photo in Friday’s Münchner Merkur of someone who looks curiously like me gleefully stopping traffic by stringing tape through an intersection. I also did not waltz in front of the US consulate or participate in a sleep-in at the Haus der Kunst. But I imagine the whole event looked something like this.

I’m looking forward to the next flashmob on Wednesday. If you’d like to play along, you can sign up to participate on the Urbanauten website. I did.

Andorra: almost adorable

What a bizarre little country, Andorra. Nestled into the mountainous terrain between Spain and France, Andorra is basically a series of tiny little mountain towns. They’re completely unlike, say, Swiss mountain towns, in that each town consists of a small cluster of giant buildings. No cozy wooden mountain huts in sight. As a trade off there were some cute crossing signal men.

We decided that Solden was the cutest of the Andorran towns we drove through, with its pretty stone buildings lining the street. It, like pretty much every other town in Andorra, seemed to be gearing up for the coming ski season.

Catalan is the official language in Andorra, but there’s plenty of French and Spanish around, too. With all those other languages taking precedence, there’s a little less English around than you find in other Western European countries.

Andorra is known for its low taxes, and is thus a big shopping destination for luxury goods, liquor, and gasoline. We were stopped by French customs agents on our way back into France. As we pulled up next to a car that was being thoroughly searched by several agents, we were happy that we had nothing but a bottle of whisky and a jar of Spanish olives to declare.

On our way home from Andorra we stopped in Foix, France, for dinner. After wandering around the old town’s narrow, cobblestoned streets to take in the offerings, we settled on the very popular Le Jeu de l’Oie (17, rue Lafaurie). There was no English menu but the staff was very friendly and humored our crappy French language abilities. I had a delicious cheese plate. Mmmmmm French cheese.

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