Hi everybody…Paul here!  As you may have surmised, Michelle and I have not been doing much traveling and therefore, have neglected our blog. We are grounded for the foreseeable future due to family health issues. So, I decided to put up weekly photos to keep our blog alive. Michelle is busy working, so you will have to deal with my lousy writing for a while…sorry about that! Once we hit the road again, Michelle will be back at the helm here, and I will be back behind the camera.

This image was taken on my ride in to work in Belmar, New Jersey. I retired this past June, and for 28 of my 29 working years, I always took the most direct route to my place of employment. I suppose I was always worried about getting to work early and thinking of only my job during that time.  This past September I decided I would stop and smell the roses (or sea air as it were) and drove in every morning by the beach. I wonder how many great scenes I missed over those 28 years? 

IMG_6924-Edit-Edit-Edit-Edit (1)© Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence, 2007-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

He’s been to The Grand Ole Opry House, and he hates country music.

He’s seen enough Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert to last a lifetime.

So what do you do for the man who has suffered through numerous musical tragedies and lived to tell the stories?

You take him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He loves rock and roll.

Welcome to Cleveland, Paul (if we can get out of Newark first).

Ah, the famously delayed, recent winner of “worst airport in America” strikes again. The only thing they’ve got going is this view of the New York City skyline. At least you have something to gaze at while you wait…

Our first impression of Cleveland? Everyone is friendly, the city is incredibly clean, and the food is delicious and affordable. We had our first meal at The Butcher and the Brewer-part butcher shop, part brewery. These exhausted and hungry travelers threw down a pierogi flatbread, charred broccoli, patatas bravas and smoky mac and cheese within seconds of it hitting the bar.

And the view? Pretty magnificent so far.

This is Key Tower, apparently the tallest building in all of Ohio. See the key on top?

We will fill you in on all our good finds in Cleveland. Happy Memorial Day weekend to all of our readers!

There’s something about Washington, D.C. and sunshine. The sky, the trees, those cherry blossoms when they’re in bloom. Who doesn’t love this city?

We’re a little bit of Alexandria and a little bit of D.C. people. This means that when we travel there, we have to visit both.

I always said that if we won the lottery, we’d need to have a vacation home in Alexandria. It’s probably not the Caribbean Island destination you expected, but it’s the exposed brick, wreath on the door, good food, proximity to Washington thing that makes me love the place. We’d have permanent reserved seats at our local Busboys and Poets and Hanks and a short ride to the airport whenever we needed to jet off to our next destination.

Sounds dreamy…

I should probably go buy a ticket…

Here are four ladies, exhausted and beaten by the sun after a day of touring the Colosseum. We are waiting, impatiently, to eat a bowl of cacio e pepe at Restaurant X.

Restaurant X is not the real name of the restaurant.

It’s Roma Sparita actually.

Anthony Bourdain put this restaurant on the map when he professed his love for Roma Sparita’s cacio e pepe on an episode of No Reservations. He called it Restaurant X to keep both the location of the restaurant and its real name a secret.

In an effort to not “kill what he loved,” he left out a lot of specific information to keep tourists from ruining the place. It didn’t take long for the world to figure out all that he didn’t tell us.

So, when we were in Rome all those years ago, we (along with thousands of others, I’m sure) set out to find Restaurant X. Thanks to the Internet, we easily found Roma Sparita in the Trastevere section of Rome.

The cacio e pepe here is rich and fulfilling (the bowl itself is made of cheese).

We will always remember the experience, the taste, and sitting on this stoop in Rome.

We were what he feared. The NJ crew that crashed Roma Sparita. We mean, Restaurant X…

This is me on what we refer to as “the doomed trip to Maine” (click the link to view that old rant of a blog post). Everything that could go wrong, did. From the last minute job interview that took a day off the itinerary to the sad state of the hotel that was supposed to be in “Portland” but really was “Portland West.” The one with the green pool, the bad carpet, and even worse: West of Portland.

Even more brutal was this: waiting for this plastic lobster to light up. There was so much anticipation and excitement when this thing started to sparkle alerting me to the arrival of my second lobster roll of the trip. The first one we picked up on the side of the road; a recommendation from a local who was also on the side of the road. She said it was the best; we thought it was the worst. This one had to be better, right?

Apparently the lobster roll was doomed too. Everything I’d dreamed a Maine lobster roll to be, was not.

I dreamed they’d be as good as:

Crab cakes in Maryland.

Bagels in New York.

Po’boys in New Orleans.

In-n-Out in California.

Hot dogs in Chicago.

I could go on and on.

But seriously, you know where the best lobster roll I’ve ever had is?

Baltimore

Thames Street Oyster House, Fells Point.

Award winning. Better than Maine. Period.

Go there.

Nothing can stop me from a lounge chair on the balcony of a cruise ship. Not even Alaska. Let’s face it; everyone reaches their daily food coma when your only choices are eat, sleep, repeat. Subtract the pool from the equation, and you have more reason to indulge, then nap, in consecutive order.

Plus, Celebrity hands out these fleece blankets like towels. Easy to accumulate and pairs perfectly with your North Face jacket. Sit back, relax, and wake up in time for the glacier passing.

We take the Seastreak ferry into the city as much as possible. It’s just about the most relaxing way to get to New York, especially during the warmer months of the year when the sky is bright blue and the sun is glistening over Manhattan. There’s nothing better than sitting on the back of the Seastreak, wind in your hair, cocktail in hand, with the lights and sounds of New York City ready and waiting. If you choose to depart the boat in Midtown, this building welcomes you to the Big Apple as it stretches into the clouds above.

The worst part of this is the return trip to New Jersey when you watch the skyline fade away as you chug towards home. That’s always the sad end to a Saturday and Sunday you wish would last forever. New York City. Our favorite weekend adventure.

This is the pool at the Inn & Spa at Loretto in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We stayed here several years ago while on our cross-country trip across America. As you can see, this gorgeous Pueblo-style hotel is the perfect setting for a relaxing Santa Fe vacation.

While we were here, we met up with Sara Eyestone, a famous American artist who just happened to be one of Paul’s neighbors when he was a teenager. We met up with Sara at La Posada de Santa Fe, another incredible hotel option in downtown Santa Fe. Here at La Posada, Sara is the Art Curator for a hotel that once featured the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. Today, La Posada’s walls feature Sara Eyestone’s work along with several other American artists’ creations.

Meeting up with Sara and her husband is one of our most cherished memories of our trip. It wasn’t planned, and we were lucky that she answered the phone when we randomly called to tell her we were in town. We will never forget the delicious fajita dinner with homemade tortillas that we shared with her and her husband that evening. We also won’t forget the fun conversation and warm welcome we received.

We hope to get to Santa Fe again someday. We’ve yet to stay at La Posada, and it’s on our list of places to stay as we continue to live the SPG life through Marriott Bonvoy.

If you haven’t been to Santa Fe, we hope you put it on your list. It’s truly a spectacular and unique place to visit. Let us know and we’ll guide you in the direction of those tortillas. We promise you’ll never forget them.

This is grocery shopping in the south of France.

The air is filled with the sweet aroma of all that is local here. From piles of ruby red cherries to olives and cheese, you’ll be tempted to wander and taste.

The Whole Foods of Aix en Provence. Prime membership included.

Paul took this photo on the nighttime Fat Tire Bike Tour of Paris. It is the one thing we highly recommend everybody do if it’s your first time visiting this beautiful city. It is essential that you take both the day tour and the night tour. You’ll jump on a beach cruiser and pedal down city streets that lead you to these breathtakingly gorgeous and remarkable views. On the day tour, you will enjoy a leisurely lunch in the Tuileries and at night, you’ll enjoy dessert at Berthillon before cruising past the Louvre and hopping a river cruise down the Seine while the Eiffel Tower sparkles in all its glory . Sounds pretty spectacular, doesn’t it?

The best part is, you can Fat Tire yourself around a lot of other cities these days, including New Orleans. We’ve now Fat Tired in London and the Big Easy, and we plan on adding Barcelona soon. In fact, we’d love to Fat Tire our way around the world. Wink, wink, Fat Tire. We’d be honored.

We honeymooned in Sorrento, Italy. It was the perfect honeymoon of sit by the pool, walk down to town to eat, take the bus back up to the hotel to sit by the pool again, walk down to town to eat, take the bus back up to the hotel. Notice, I didn’t say walk up? I don’t think it was Sorrento official or anything, but our hotel was the farthest hotel from sea level in all of town. And our favorite restaurant sat right at sea level, practically in this water. That’s why the seafood was so fresh.

If you want just a glimpse of part of the walk back up to town, here it is:

It’s the young and newly married me taking the steps after a lunch of fish, pasta, pizza, repeat. These steps led you right up to the town square. But the hotel? Still miles away from Earth; take a right at the Milky Way.

We have so many fond memories of our honeymoon. The food, the people, the pool, the lemon trees, and the steps. It’s funny how something as minor as a staircase and a path that winds it way past the limoncello can remain etched in your mind for all of eternity. We laughed, and almost cried (tears of joy) when our favorite waiter, after another hefty and delicious dinner, flagged down a city bus to take us back up to town. He must have known we overdid it that night and that these stairs might have actually killed us.

That’s how we’ll always remember Sorrento. Overly happy to bypass the stairs and knowingly too full to have survived the climb, we were two newlyweds on a private ride to the center of town on a city bus they wouldn’t let us pay for. And here we are, still laughing about it 9 years later. That’s the good stuff.