Friday, August 9, 2013

Cocktail du jour: Aperol Spritz

Not only are bottles of Aperol plentiful behind the bars in London, but my favorite cocktail actually has its own glassware. On our first night in London we passed by an Italian restaurant near our hotel and out in front was a board advertising their happy hour special, Aperol spritz. So you get one guess where we ate our first meal in the bustling big British city.

I realize this is a repeat of a cocktail I did forever ago in January, but it's really a very summery aperitif meant to be enjoyed during the warm weather. London was suffering from record high temperatures the entire week we were there, so refreshing cocktails were essential.

Aperol spritz
3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
splash of club soda
garnish with an orange slice

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Big C&G, master photographer

How gorgeous is this photo? Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, a double decker bus and a black cab. All the London icons in one stunning photo. Big C&G took a majority of the photos on our three week adventures through the United Kingdom and Ireland, including this fabulous London sunset. He's developing quite an eye for well composed photos and we were more than happy to let him run off with one of our iPhones.

I'm still working my way through laundry, mail, and various other things that pile up when you run away from reality for a few weeks but I wanted to share this while I take a brief blogging break. I've got a cocktail post ready to go for tomorrow (priorities!) but I'm going to take a few days off to get re-settled. Planning for this trip started way back in January for me, and I can't quite believe that it's come and gone. I live for travel planning, so it's a bit of an adjustment being back at home with nothing big in our near future.

Edinburgh, Scotland at dusk, by Big C&G
Thankfully we've got one short trip planned and then it's time to start getting ready for school. Once the pencils, notebooks, folders and binders have all been taken care of I'll be ready to get back to blogging. I've got plenty to share from our adventures. Like where to sit back with an amazing cocktail in London's swanky Mayfair, with the world'd finest toy store around the corner for little boys who finish their tea. Or what up and coming fabulous young Scottish chef was happy to create kid friendly dishes with the best ingredients Scotland has to offer, and not a single haggis in sight. Or which temperamental French chef has an outpost in Dublin featuring the best filet mignon I've ever had. Ever. Cocktails and Gelato will have all that and more. Till then, cheers!

Ashford Castle, Ireland by Big C&G

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Venice takes the bronze!

Venice for kids is magical. So I shouldn't have been surprised when it made the little C&Gs top 3 on the list of cities they've visited. Over cocktails on our last night of vacation last Wednesday (was it really only a week ago?) we chatted about our favorite cities from all of our trips. We challenged the boys to list their top 5, and they weren't limited to our summer adventures in Europe. Even home base of Portland, Maine was eligible for top honors.

Copenhagen was the number one city on all of our lists. Possibly because it's the first European city we visited as a family, but Copenhagen is so stunningly beautiful it's easy to see how we all agreed. With Tivoli Gardens for entertainment and the colorful waterfront of Nyhavn to explore, we absolutely loved our few days there and it's no surprise we all want to go back.

Venice came in at number 3 for both boys, which I totally wasn't expecting. When we were there last August it was brutally hot (approaching 100º most days), very crowded, and just a tad bit smelly. But the island city must have made quite the impression to beat out more than forty other cities on our list. Mr. C&G and I were not such fans of Venice and we were both happy to check it off our travel to do list, but I think the boys want a repeat visit.

A huge part of the kid appeal of Venice is that it looks like no other place on earth. The island is a jumble of narrow alleys and ancient bridges, and there's adventure around every turn. You can get totally lost without ever being actually lost, as every sidewalk will eventually meet up with a body of water and you can easily get your bearings. For kiddos with a sense of adventure it's one giant playground, complete with pasta and gelato never too far out of reach.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Maine Monday: Breakfast outdoors

Getting back to reality after almost four weeks away is hard. Very hard. The look on Little C&Gs face speaks for us all, although it might have something to do with getting up at 5:00am. Today we managed to make it to 7:00, so I'm hoping we're over the worst part of world travel. I have a theory about recovering from jet lag, it takes a day for every time zone you cross to get back to normal. With today being day five, my theory is holding up and we all seem to be settling in.

I'm trying to keep the European vibe going for as long as possible, which is why I dragged us out of the house yesterday morning in search of breakfast. Portland has plenty of brunch places, but few breakfast places that are open early. Even fewer have outdoor tables, and outdoor tables are key to continuing my European vacation fantasy (along with avoiding cooking). Both boys were craving pancakes and all I wanted was to sit in the sun with a mug of coffee while being waited on. We cruised down Commercial Street and found a parking spot right in front of The Farmer's Table, they were about to open (at 9) so their always crowded patio was totally empty.

The Farmer's Table has the sunniest spot on Commercial Street, but as I discovered only once we were seated they don't have the most extensive brunch menu. It's mostly lunch fare, with some omelets and benedicts thrown in, and I really should have checked the menu before we sat. There's no kids menu and very few kid friendly dishes to choose from. The boys ordered bagels and weren't happy about it, but as the sidewalks were starting to pick up with tourist traffic, finding another option (and parking spot) just wasn't worth it.

Breakfast, London style
In hindsight we should have taken advantage of being early risers and headed to Becky's Diner for their delicious blueberry pancakes and super kid friendly menu. They open at 4am, and it doesn't take long for the line to start forming out the door on a Sunday morning. Or we could have picked up freshly baked croissants and coffee from Standard Baking Company and sat outside along the water, which would have been the closest thing to our morning meals while on vacation. Maybe I can talk Standard Baking into decorating their pastries with some royal insignia, just to help me acclimate to life back on this side of the pond of course.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cocktail du jour: Prosecco Rose

Wednesday night the C&G family raised our glasses to the end of a very successful three week vacation traveling through England, Scotland, and Ireland. This gorgeously pink glass of bubbliness was just the thing to take my mind off our adventures coming to an end (and the packing for home that still needed to be done).

We sat in the elegant bar of the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin not quite believing we'd be heading for home the next day. In Mr. C&Gs glass was an Irish version of the Manhattan (Irish whisky standing in for rye) and the boys toasted with their usual orange/strawberry fancy cocktails.

The No. 27 Bar at the Shelbourne has a very extensive cocktail list, with many award winning recipes. But after ordering one of their specialty cocktails and having it arrive in quite possibly the smallest champagne glass I've ever seen (and paying $17USD for it), I learned my lesson and stuck with my new favorite glass of pink bubbly.

We arrived home safe and sound yesterday, and there's a ridiculous amount of catching up to do, not to mention suitcases full of laundry. The four of us will battle through the next few days in a jet lag induced haze (waking at 4:30 this morning didn't help), and I hope to be back to blogging business by Monday. Although if I can keep on UK time for a few more days, I have the perfect excuse for starting cocktail hour right after lunch. Pardon me while I go open the bottle of rose chilling in the wine fridge. Cheers!