There is something special about Rome in the winter.
While the weather may be grey and dreary most of the time, the sun occasionally comes out and the sky radiates a blue brighter than the clearest summer day.
The warm colors of the buildings seem to be enhanced, and the people even seem a little bit more cheerful as they walk somewhat more hastily, with runny noses and rosy cheeks. Small dogs proudly accompany their owners, wearing red knit Christmas sweaters. Toddlers and grandfathers alike bundle up in those oh-so-characteristically-Italian puffy coats.
While the sun sets early, the cool cotton candy colors set a mood which cannot compare to the fiery skies from the summer sun. The brown tree branches alongside the river have died in a glorious series of arches that stretch as far as the eye can see, making a sort of tunnel effect for people who walk under them.
Best of all, it is still possible to sit outside and enjoy the lively atmosphere thanks to many restaurants’ outdoor space heaters, and sometimes even complementary blankets.
Winter in Rome is a magical place, filled with small shops selling handmade Christmas trinkets, and children running back and forth between the wooden stalls and the carousel at the Christmas market in Piazza Navona.
The streets are silent, and it is as if the whole city has bundled up inside to stay warm. The only noises heard are the occasional screeching of tracks from the tram as it passes over Ponte Garibaldi or the church bells which chime from every which direction each hour.
Apartments, on the other hand, are a different story. Most complexes are older than the United States as a country, meaning those damp and rainy days tend to creep inside.
In this case, the only solution is to curl up with a blanket and greet the dampness with a bowl of warm tomato based gnocchi - the ultimate comfort food - and a cup of rich Italian hot chocolate… or red wine.
Perhaps winter is the best time to visit Rome, the real Rome. Where street vendors are too cold to even bother you, where waiters don’t automatically speak English to you, and where you can truly catch a glimpse of this magical city all to yourself.
Dallas is now considered the 4th biggest city in the USA, boasting a breathtaking skyline, a healthy job market, and plenty of seasonal events and activities. While I could talk all about Dallas, Texas holding one heck of a state fair in October, I instead only want to talk about places I have been and leave the rest for a later visit.
Pearl Cup Coffee
I’ll admit, I am not immune to the Starbucks craze, but when I travel, I try to make an effort to support local restaurants and cafes that are unique to their location. Pearl Cup Coffee is located in “far north Dallas” and is known for their Texas brewed, artisan crafted coffee.
This place has a warm interior with wooden tables, and a welcoming covered patio outside. The signature Pearl Latte ($4.25) won Best Latte in Dallas by D Magazine and Dallas Observer. This super secret latte has subtle hints of vanilla, but isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. Pearl Cup Coffee also sells Mexican Hot Chocolate ($4.25), smoothies ($4.75), and Chai coffee ($4.25).
Address: 2701 Custer Pkwy #917, Richardson, TX 75080, USA
Hours: 7:00 am - 6:00 pm
I’ve talked about this pizzeria before and I will rave about it again. This is the best pizza ever - and I’ve lived in Italy for 18 months. You can read all about Cane Rosso here.
A local favorite, this hip burger joint can be found in the heart of Deep Ellum in Downtown Dallas. The Twisted Root menu is just as quirky as the neighborhood and it has an overwhelming number of burger varieties. Choose between a traditional beef burger or more unique options like turkey, camel, buffalo, kangaroo, lamb, antelope, ostrich, emu, boar, bison, or venison, depending on the game season.
Order fried pickles or fried green beans as sides, and then top your burger off with chili sauce, sauteed onions, bleu cheese, Fritos, homemade ketchup, or homemade BBQ sauce. You can also pick up four types of house-made pickles at the pickle bar.
Drinks include coconut lemonade, homemade root beer, and seasonal coconut and blueberry root beers. For dessert, pick from the list of wacky milkshake combinations like banana & bacon, s’mores, coffee & donuts, peanut butter & strawberry, or the “adult shakes” like Oreo & amaretto.
Address: 2615 Commerce St (between S. Good-Latimer Expy. & Pryor St.) Dallas, TX 75226
Hours: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
In just 60 seconds, the elevator takes you 470 feet above the ground to the observation deck, "GeO-Deck." While it may have been windy and absolutely freezing at the top, the cotton candy sunset made me forget all about my numb fingers.
Reunion Tower was completed in 1978 as part of an urban redevelopment project. From a distance, you'll be able to see the tower's fantastic themed LED light shows. The tower also has a fancy restaurant called Five Sixty run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time.
300 Reunion Blvd E, Dallas, TX 75207, USA
Deep Ellum Graffiti
In this neighborhood of Downtown Dallas, there are tons of murals, 42 to be exact. The first was painted in the 80's and the project has grown ever since, especially with the help of social media. You can find anything from dogs to JFK to vineyards painted on the walls, all in the effort to keep the area edgy and unique. If it wasn't so cold, I would have loved to see them all! Pokemon Go maps their exact locations, so you don't have to search too hard to find the art. You can read more about Deep Ellum's history here.
Monet Art Exhibit
While technically this is not in Dallas, it is still worthy of a visit if you are in the DFW area. The Kimbell Art Museum holds temporary exhibitions, and while I was there, I had the chance to see "Monet: The Early Years." I was able to see all the works of art painted by Claude Monet between 1858 and 1872. Beware, this exhibit only lasts until January 29, 2017!
Address: 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA
Relax in Klyde Warren Park
I spent an afternoon in Klyde Warren Park over the summer. This oasis right in the middle of the city offers everything from yoga classes to ping pong. Nearby, there were a few food trucks selling tacos and snow cones. People were reading books as they sat at restaurant patios sipping tea and wine. Let's just say, this afternoon made me realize that I am not as good at the game of chess as I once thought I was.
Address: 2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Suite 403, Dallas, TX 75201, United States
Eat dinner at Thanksgiving Tower
Thanksgiving Tower is a 197 meter modernistic style building and is currently the 8th tallest building in the city. On the 48th floor, there is a restaurant called Triniti at Tower Club.
Upon entering, I was treated in the most hospitable way. The woman at the check-in hung up my coat and scarf, and the waiter even pulled out my seat for me. I’m not used to this kind of service. Then again, you get what you pay for.
The dinner started with a first course, in which I ordered a sweet potato and squash bisque. It was divine and I’ve been craving it ever since. The main course was pork chops topped with brandy soaked peaches. Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine is…
Last but not least, I finished the meal off with a slice of syrupy sweet pecan tart.
Oh, and did I mention the view while I was eating all this?
Be sure to make a reservation well ahead of time, as this is a very formal dining experience.
Address: 1601 Elm Street, Dallas, Texas