L’Ultimo Giorno A New York (Last Day in New York)

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After 5th Avenue, for our last day in New York, we decided to go shopping at a place for more normal people – Macy’s!

At their original store, which they claim is the largest department store in the world. 8 floors full of name brands, regular cloths, and even restaurants.

We wandered around checking it all out – coats, underwear, swimsuits – before deciding to just have lunch.

It turns out Macy’s has an excellent Italian trattoria called Stella 34 (since it is on 34th Street). We shared margherita pizza, artichoke on focaccia bread, and burrata with prosciutto.  

Enza loved it that the brick over pizza was named for Mount Etna – the volcano in Sicily!

Then got serious with souvenir shopping. Enza was in the market for magnets, and we found a shop run by a Chinese couple. It was fun to watch them try to communicate (they did better than I do!) and Enza trying to bargain with them. It didn’t work, but she got a good deal anyway.

That night, another cousin came over for dinner.

Antoinette is Frank’s niece, who lives in Staten Island.  She learned Italian before she learned English and had visited Enza in Sicily many years ago with her mom and sister (who was at the dinner earlier this week). It was fun to listen to the two of them share family stories and try to follow along (my Italian is getting a little better every day!).

What a special week this has been!

Next up: Amtrak to Annapolis!

Giorno Elegantissimo a New York (Elegant Day in New York)

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We are so busy having fun that I have gotten a little behind on the blog.  To catch up –

Today I decided to show Enza some of MY favorite spots in New York. It was cold so we had the Uber drop us off right at the best spot of all – Tiffany. I explained to her that Tiffany has beautiful jewelry, but expensive, so fun to just look. And they are so nice there – even if they know you aren’t buying, they still treat you like a queen. We went through the revolving doors – uno / uno (we had to teach Enza that you only go one at a time).  Frank made a beeline for the 6th floor lounge, which has sofas for husbands to wait, which Enza and I dreamily waved him off.  We saw some eye-popping pieces, including the diamond necklace worn by Lady Gaga at the Golden Globes.

Next we took a one-block stroll down 5th Avenue – a strada famosa (famous street) with lots of fashion.  She had heard of 5th Avenue.

To our final destination – The Plaza Hotel

I told Enza that when I was little, my favorite children’s book was Eloise, the little girl who lived at The Plaza. They serve a splendid afternoon tea in the Palm Court.

They first brought us champagne – Enza took one sip, looked a little surprised and exclaimed, “Buona!” Good!

She declared the day not just “elegante,” but “elegantissimo!”

Buccheri Cena Familgia (Buccheri Family Dinner)

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Tonight we had a truly authentic family dinner in Little Italy.  As I have said, Enza’s father and Frank’s mother were siblings, making Frank and Enza first cousins.  Frank’s nieces and nephew (his brother’s children) still live in Brooklyn, where Frank grew up.  So they are all related to Enza.  We were looking forward to this night.

So much so that Enza decided that afternoon that she needed to have her hair done.  We are in New York, and I am pretty good with logistics, but had a momentary panic of how to conjure up a salon on a moment’s notice in a city that isn’t mine.  Until I remembered about a place I had heard about – the Dry Bar – that specializes in blow-outs only.  All they do is blow-dry hair.  And there was one 3 blocks from our apartment!

So we made an appointment and trudged up 34th Street for an hour of beauty

Enza made me take a “Before” picture:

And After Picture

On then on to dinner – at Vincent’s in Little Italy, which has been there since 1904.

Most of the Brooklyn family speaks Italian to some degree, so stories and questions and pictures fired back and forth, along with spicy marinara, linguine vongole, and lots of vino rosso. 

I could just picture Frank’s mother looking down and smiling – what a very special evening .

Alla Cima! (To The Top!)

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We can see the Empire State Building from our apartment, so our first avventura in New York was to get to the top.  Enza was a little worried we actually had to CLIMB, but I assured her there was an ascensore (elevator). 

We rode up, up, up to the 86th floor. And what a view!

It was cold (-2 degree Celsius – around 30 degrees F), so we didn’t linger, but had fun spotting sights.

After that, we decided to introduce Enza to her first Starbucks.  She loved it that they yelled her name when her espresso was ready.  And declared American caffe – “va bene” (all right).

Adventures With Enza

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We have already had a wonderful time with Enza!  And I am finding that I can understand a lot of what she says in Italian (so my studying has paid off).  I’m not very good speaking though – I freeze up or don’t pronounce correctly.  But we pantomime our way through – and I keep Google Translate open all the time!

We rented an AirBnb in New York for the week so that we could sightsee and meet up with the Brooklyn Family, who are related to Enza (more on that later).

Our apartment is in Murray Hill, which is near the UN, on East 34th Street (the same 34th Street from the famous “Miracle on 34th Street” movie).

We are on the 33rd floor with a fabulous view of the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and the whole skyline.

The apartment is 2 bedrooms/2 bathrooms – perfect for us.

This is Enza’s room:

And the view at night – bella!

Enza Is Here!

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She made it!

I texted Enza’s daughter, Mirella, almost all night long – both of us with our respective versions of Google Translate open, trading information from Sicily to the USA via texting.  Enza was traveling with her granddaughter’s (Mirella’s daughter’s) school trip to the USA. First there was a strike, which led to a cancelled flight.  Then the new flight missed its connection in London, so they got stuck there and had to spend the night (thankfully in a hotel).  Then an earthquake this morning in London.  Wow!  But they finally made it!

Frank and I nervously waited at the rendezvous spot – the Midtown Hilton – where the school group is staying.  They are part of 2500 high-schoolers from around the world participating in the Model UN program.  Very cool. 

They sent us this picture as they left JFK Airport for Manhattan.  They were getting closer!

Then Lady Enza made her entrance, looking perfectly coiffed.

This is Gaia, Enza’s granddaughter, one of the Model UN participants.

We also met all the teachers and students.

Then we headed for pranzo (lunch) at the Stardust Diner for Enza’s first glimpse of New York City.  This is the diner on Broadway where the waitstaff sings.  They even sang “Time to Say Goodbye” in Italian (from Phantom) just for Enza.

We’re in for a fabulous few weeks, I can tell.  Come along with us!

Enza is on her way!

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I received a very excited text last night as Frank and I were going to bed.  It was 4:30 am Sicily time (10:30 EST) and she was up and waiting for her son and son-in-law, Salvio and Benedetto, to take her to the airport in Catania, about 2 hours away.  She would be flying over with her granndaughter’s school group, connecting in Amsterdam, and then would see us in America!

Frank’s cousin, Enza, from Sicily arrives tonight!  We think. 

Then around 10 am, I got a text that she was just leaving Catania and going to London and then would see us in America! 

Hmmm . . . Was she just confused? 

I texted her daughter, Mirella.  Turns out there is a strike in Sicily, so the flight was cancelled and the school group broken up on different planes.  As we speak, Enza is on a plane to Milan, which will connect to a flight to London, which will eventually end up (we hope) in New York around midnight tonight.  And she is no longer with her granddaughter, but is with 2 professors and 20 other students.  Of course, all of these texts are in Italian.  Apparently the final flight to NYC is a little up in the air (no pun intended!), so we still don’t have a flight number or airline.   

In the meantime, Mirella sent the above picture of Enza at the airport this morning.  Frank and I had warned her it was cold in New York so bring a coat.

So the adventure begins – stay tuned to find out if we actually find Enza in the big city of New York!

La Nostra Cugina Siciliana – Enza!

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We are reviving the blog because we have a very special visitor who is about to arrive – Frank’s cousin from Sicily, Enza!

You may remember Enza from our trips to Sicily before.  She took us all around Canicatti, Frank’s mother’s town (where Enza lives). And we had so much fun that she traveled with us to Siracusa and Taormina.

Enza is Frank’s first cousin.  Her father is the brother who traveled to Naples with Frank’s 16-year old mother so that she could embark on a ship to the New World. 

Enza, who can be quite a character, sent me a Facebook message last fall with an idea – her granddaughter’s school group was coming to the USA in February.  If she stowed away with them, could we pick her up?  She’d stay with us for a month, and then we’d deliver her back to Sicily.  What did we think? 

This proposal was all in Italian.  Facebook does have a “translate” feature, but I entered her message into Google Translate to make sure I’d gotten that right.  We were to pick her up somewhere in the United States – in February – and deliver her a month later back to Sicily? 

It sounded a little crazy, even for Sicilians!  So I emailed back to confirm that I understood – and she said it was her dream to visit “her beloved cousin in America.”  That clinched it. Frank and I looked at each other, shook our heads with a smile, and decided to jump right in.

And that is how we ended up on a train to New York City with our Italian flashcards in hand – to pick up Enza Tuesday night as she flies into JFK for a month. 

Come along for our wild ride!  We promise it will be an avventura!

Scandic Holmenkollen Park: The Bachelorette Hotel

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Scandic Hallway

A couple of years ago, I was flipping channels and landed on “The Bachelorette,” who was heading to a dream date in Oslo, Norway.

Her limousine pulled up in front of an historic wooden hotel with a distinctive dragon style.

Scandic Outside

The setting was beautiful – high in the hills overlooking Oslo and the Oslofjord.

I was hooked.

They didn’t’ say the name of the hotel on the show, but I knew I wanted to stay there if I could.  I googled and searched until I finally ran across of picture of this amazing looking hotel – the Scandic Holmenkollen Park.

Scandic Stairs

Not only was this an iconic Norwegian hotel – dating back to 1894 – it was built next to the Holmenkollen Ski Lift from the 1952 Winter Olympics. (See our next blog for that.)


Our Suite

I booked us into a junior suite to celebrate our last 3 nights in Norway. AND – we got upgraded to what I think was the Bachelorette’s suite!

B Room 2

It was two levels, with a loft overlooking the bedroom

B Room

and a Jacuzzi on the veranda overlooking Oslo.

Scandic Terrace

They also have a fabulous formal restaurant, where we had oxtail ravioli and the best lamb either of us has ever had (which is saying something – Frank loves lamb).

Scandic Restaurant

So Frank and I had our own “dream date” as we said farewell to Norway.

Scandic View


Last Look at Bergen

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[Note: We are back in the States – I had a work trip to Seattle last week, so didn’t have a chance to finish up the blog.  So will be posting last few days . . . .]

F Front

Today is our final day in Bergen, so we decided to take in the views from the top – via the Floibanen funicular.

We have a fun family story about this funicular. When my parents were here 20 years ago, they boarded and then my mom heard how high it went (1,000 feet), panicked, and hopped off at the very last second into “no man’s land” on the wrong side of the car.  They had to stop the funicular and get her out.  They eventually did ride up, had a wonderful time, and even hiked back down.

F in tunnel

So we were excited to go.

The funicular was built 100 years ago and has been updated several times since then. It makes a few stops along the way to the top for folks who live up the mountain and carries both locals and tourists to the summit.

F up hill

The views from the top really are spectacular!

F View

And not only are their panoramic views, but shops, hiking trails, and even goats!  One is even named Obama.


I took this picture partly because this little girl reminded me a lot of my niece, Holly, at that age – I can see that Norwegian bloodline!

Goats 2

There is also an historic restaurant.

F Restaurant 2

We stopped in for a cocktail to bid Bergen a very fond farewell.

F Drinks

Next Up: On our way to the famous “Bachelorette” Hotel – really, I saw it on “The Bachelorette” and decided to stay there!

F Signpost