Category Archives: travel

Back to Rome

Michael Castellon, Florence, ItalyThis is our second trip to Italy. We visited last year and couldn’t resist returning. This year we visited Florence and Siena before settling into our rental in Rome’s Trastevere. My sister Holly joined us, and it was nice to share the experience as a family.

Siena is a two-hour train ride from Florence. The countryside is inviting, and we see many small towns and their people. Siena is a nice change from Florence. We’re still among fellow tourists, but I feel less threats from pickpockets. A polizia strolls alongside us on the Piazza del Campo, and her smile is welcoming.

We eat lunch on the piazza, and buy stationary and a soup ladle made of olive wood from the Chianti region. We take the train back to Florence, and stop at a small grocery store to take indinner supplies: bread, prosciutto, anchovies, tomatoes, and bufala mozzarella.

The next morning, a high speed train takes us to Rome’s Termini.

One of my favorite things to do in Rome is walk along the banks of the Tiber River. There’s magnificent stillness and light along the river like I’ve never seen.

Alessio is our favorite restaurant in Rome. On multiple occasions we’ve eaten there on consecutive nights. We take in obvious sites: the Coloseum, the Pantheon, and we stop in a number of basilicas to light candles and rest our feet.




Cubs Spring Training Wrap-Up: 2016 Edition

View from Giants spring training in Scottsdale

March provided a great opportunity for us to spend time at Chicago Cubs training camp in Arizona. This year we took in games at Surprise, Scottsdale, and of course, Mesa, which houses the Cubs’ new Sloan Park facility. While the Cubs had a rough spring, they’re favored for a World Series run this year.

Spring training is an interactive experience; fans have the opportunity to watch batting practice up close and visit with coaches, trainers and former players. A number of stars make appearances (we met Andre Dawson, Gaylord Perry, and Fergie Jenkins over several days — Check out the pictures below).

We also found time for plenty of hiking, and visiting with a great friend of mine who lives in the Phoenix area. 

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Flying Sonoma and Napa Valleys

August is a great time to leave Texas. For pilots especially, summer presents unique challenges. High temperatures and humidity contribute to bumpier, often less enjoyable flights. These conditions also diminish aircraft performance, resulting in longer takeoff and landing distances and reduced fuel efficiency.

Of course, these issues aren’t particularly difficult to deal with. Perhaps the hardest part for me is the time spent on a smoldering airport tarmac for pre- and post-flight operations.

In Austin especially, the months of August and September are not kind to Midwesterners.

For these reasons I was anxious to escape with Lauren to California. Sonoma County is a good destination for anyone seeking chilled air. We decide that before setting out on a fast and furious tour of areas wineries, we’ll kick-off the trip by logging some local flight time in Napa. It would be our first experience in flying out-of-state since I earned my pilot certificate in 2012. Continue reading


We had a great time in Roswell. Pecos Flavors Winery and Tasting Room comes highly recommended if you’re a wine buff. We stopped in Saturday evening simply to pick up a couple bottles, and found that the tasting room had a band and was going to stay open late, so we stayed. We experimented with a few bottles and some cheese onsite, and brought a couple bottles home (a Cabernet and a Merlot – we still have almost 8 bottles left of a case of St Claire Nebbiolo Lauren brought home from Pecos Flavors last winter. They’ll make great Christmas and Hanukkah gifts). For food, check out Martin’s (pronounced Mar-teen’s) Capitol Cafe. Great Mexican. Check out more photos here.