Prague has been an amazing place to end our trip. We ventured just outside of town to catch a glimpse of the Konopištê Castle. Unfortunately, the castle was not open today but it did not stop us from wandering the grounds. The oddest part was probably coming across the bear kept on grounds... yeah, a bear. As in, a large black bear. It was all locked up but still an odd sight to behold while peeking down toward what was once a moat. I suppose that is a safe place to keep a large, human killing animal that is. It native to the area. At any rate, back to the castle, we walked around the large park and down to the lake to see if we could at least try and get come good pictures while we were there. With a calm day on the water, the lake provided the perfect foreground the castle, peeking up through the trees.
With little left to explore, we returned the Prague to find a quick bite to eat and walked around the city. As the lights started to come on, we made our way over to astronomical clock to catch the hourly display. We had missed the show by about 3 minutes on multiple occasions so we had to make it work tonight. It's quite a scene with loads of people gathered around to see the clock strike the hour. The clock comes to life with doors opening and 12 apostles marching through the windows, death ringing the bells, and a whole love of chiming.
After the chimes were done, we made our way up the tower steps to the top of the tower. It was incredible to overlook the city from so high above. We went up in the dark to capture the city lights, but I could see the daytime views being equally as breathtaking. With a 360 walk around the tower, it was time to call it a night. Thank you, Prague, for such a wonderful and fun adventure.
Prague has stolen our hearts and we've only just arrived. When you walk around the city it's hard not to feel that you've dropped into another world. Tonight we walked through meandering cobblestone streets finding our way past garnet shops and marionette displays, taking in the sights and sounds of our final destination. The architecture is incredible and different in both subtle and dramatic ways from intricate frescoes and detailed spires, to smaller inlet carvings over doors and windows. The days are shorter and the weather much cooler as we've moved north, but we came prepared with hats and gloves. I'm excited to get out some more with my camera tomorrow - I accidentally left today with a battery that was nearly dead and my spare packed away in my travel bag (rookie move).
Our final day in Italy was spent off exploring the region of Campania - the home of the original Pizza Margherita, Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. For this trip we opted for the tour so we would be sure to get the stories and color beyond what an audio guide can offer. City Wonders did not disappoint. Two guides - one geologist, one historian - and we were off with many stories, legends and anecdotes about the regions of Lazio (Rome) and Campania (Napoli).
Our first stop was Mt Vesuvius. She is quite the beast, Vessy. The road up was nothing but switchbacks and one lane roads. Props to the bus driver for getting us to the hiking point (and back down, for that matter). We hopped out and were given ample time to find our way to the top and enjoy the views from the crater. It's believed that Visuvius as she is today, is only half the height she was originally, before the massive explosion of 79 AD.
Back on the bus, we set off down the hill toward Pompeii. For lunch, we experienced the original Pizza that was developed to represent the colors of the Italian flag and made for Queen Margherita who was curious about pizza after seeing the peasants eat it while she visited Napoli. There is a great debate about which pizza is better - Rome (thin crust) or Naples (thick crust) - personally, I thought Naples was pretty amazing.
From lunch, we set off for a tour of Pompeii with a local guide who lives and breathes Pompeii. The ruins were vast and incredible. We are able to see so much of what life was like simply because of a catastrophe like the volcano. It was hard to understand it that way, but it's quite true. They keep roughly 30% of the ruins covered and untouched to continue to preserve until such time that they can find better ways to maintain this kind of history.
It was fun to walk on the original roads and see the bits and pieces of frescoes and life that once was the merchant city of Pompeii. It seems to have been quite a colorful place! Our guide was cheeky and gave us a great highlight tour of the city. So thankful we got to see it.
We haven't written much about the food along our journey, or documented it much (I'm not much for food photography, sorry kids). But I assure you, we are enjoying it. From macaroons, champagne, bread and cheese in France to pizza, pasta, vino and gelato in Italy, we have skipped no opportunity. But today was simply exceptional in my opinion.
For lunch we found a small street side pizza place who served pizza by the slice. I've been telling Kristin about this type of pizza since the day we left home but we had yet to experience it and today was our day. They even had the potato and mozzarella (no red sauce) which is my favorite. Yum.
Then, through our walking adventure we made sure to head back over near the Trevi Fountain for the Gelateria we accidentally missed yesterday, walking by it with our far inferior gelato and deeply regretting our early purchase. We fixed that today, and had no regrets with the two flavor delight that we experienced. Wow. Giolitti Gelateria - if you're in Rome, go there. We might have to return tomorrow just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.
Finally, dinner. The hits just kept coming today. We stumbled upon a local spot just up the street from us. All the online reviews were in Italian and everyone sounded very complimentary of their food and service. Of course, we were there long before anyone else (why do they eat so late here?!) but that meant we had the place to ourselves. We sat down and they went to work on service... which can be a little scary when one of you is allergic to nuts and the other is a vegetarian. We asked to see a menu, which they gave us but didn't see much on the menu that would work for Kristin - yikes. We considered an exit plan but then the chef came to our table. I asked him what a vegetarian could eat and he described making a pasta dish with fresh veggies and tomatoes. Great! Also, not on the menu, interesting. So Kristin was set but I wasn't. I didn't quite know what to order so I gave up and asked him for a recommendation - he offered a house pasta and asked if I liked shrimp (Note: most of this was in Italian which was fun to brush off some of my language skills). I agreed but also couldn't find what he described on the menu, curious again. In the end, We may as well have skipped the menus all together because what we had, was most definitely tailor made and all around incredible. The wine appeared to be someone's homemade wine from a bottle with no label, dessert was yummy and overall service was great. They had one waiter that spoke a little English and between her English and my Italian, we did pretty well. On our way out two more tourists were just getting set. I had the chance to help with some translation and then basically just told them to have what I had and forget the menu. They agreed and we set off on our way, mischief managed.
Today we walked. While yes, we have walked other days and other cities, there is something about not having a metro option that makes it feel more challenging. For today, we experienced a Metro Strike. We're told it will only last one day (and was planned well in advance, weird), but I suppose you don't really know. Alas, our feet ache a little and we're very happily tired and headed to bed early (early wake up tomorrow for Pompeii).
That all said, having no metro access meant that we explored areas we otherwise would not have experienced and got views that we would not have seen had we taken the all-too-convenient point-to-point options. For example, we found ourselves at the highest peak of the Travestere neighborhood overlooking old town. We came upon the Colloseum from behind and Vatican from a random side street. I felt like we were sneaking up on these major monuments, hoping to jump out and surprise them with our presence. The Roman Forum and Palantine Hill were interesting, albeit less interesting when you only have a pre-recorded audio guide. The human guides are so much more entertaining and share so many great stories. We listened in on one for a moment or two but for the most part continued on our way.
We finished our journey with a must stop Gelato experience (gelato every day!). Finally, we took advantage of the small window where the metro reopened for a hot minute to help the working folks get home and made it home before they closed again for the night. It was a great day in Rome.
Somehow, neither of us put together that we might get to Rome early enough to get out and see anything on our first day here. Alas, we arrived midday which gave us abundant time to set out for a look around and spread out our time just a bit. We grabbed the metro to the Colloseum then walked from there to Piazza Navona, Pantheon, San Eustaccio Cafe, and Trevi Fountain. Not bad for a bonus afternoon in the city.
Though we did a significant amount of prep for the trip, once thing we accidentally overlooked was that there was massive storm in 2012 that wiped out major portions of the trails that make up the quentissential Cinque Terre experience, and parts are not expected to be open again until 2017. Whoops!
After consulting with a local guide, we got the low down on which trails were still open and which were not. Basically, only the northern most paths were open. However, there are miles upon miles of paths for more experienced hikers that take you up and over many of the cities, all of which remained open. We got our map marked with which path numbers to follow and set out for an unexpected adventure.
Looking back, I'm so grateful that the standard trails were closed. While they are beautiful, we never would have taken the paths that we did, had they been open. And frankly, I'd go back and do those paths again! They were stunning and took us up through local vineyards, overlooking the towns from far above. In total, those 60 Eiffel Tower floors & 130 Eze floors had nothing on the 200 Cinque Terre floors we hiked.
We ended our trek with a glorious pizza and wine lunch on the water, which also served as a shelter from the rain, which we happened to miss by some stroke of amazing luck!
Since we last left you, we were leaving France for Italy. The journey kicked us into 'Italian time' - meaning, you'll get a train, it just may not be at the time you thought you would be. Alas, delays and all, the trek from Nice to the Cinque Terre was stunning view ocean filled views.
After locating our host, we made our way up some pretty steep stairwells to our apartment. It was fun to be back in the small town of Riomaggiore where not much has changed in 10 years time. Once we ditched the backpacks which oddly are growing heavier with every stop, we went straight for the coastal views to catch a breathtaking sunset. It was a wonderful welcome to the area.
A few months back, we read an article about this teeny tiny town just west of Nice that was a charming little mideval gem, tucked away in the hills of the French Riviera. It immediately went on the list of 'to be explored'. We only have a short time in Nice, so we really had to pack it in. Off we went!
With a quick Google search we found that is was not far at all from where we're staying - boom, consider it done. Here is where the story gets really fun. Heed my warning, fellow travelers: The Google tells you NOTHING about elevation climbs. You can probably guess where this story is going. We got off the train and found ourselves staring up a mountainside... dressed like we were ready for a lovely stroll along the promenade. ::shaking my head::
But we're not quitters! So we hiked. Remember when I told you about the impressive 60 floor climb to the second platform of the Eiffel Tower? That was nothing. Today, we hiked 130 floors to Eze. It was glorious, albeit a little tough on the hips. That article was right, the town was absolutely adorable and so fun to walk around. A quick trip to the pharmacy, I scored some ibuprofen and am back to good again.
After a day of all this accidental hiking, you'd think we'd had enough, but then we decided it would be a good idea to walk home from Nice proper, to old town where we're staying in Villefranche Sur-Mer, approximately 5.5 more miles of hills and ocean views. Great views but our feet were le tired!
Today called for one killer dinner by the water, with extra wine. Thank you, Nice. It's been lovely.
We had a wonderful last day in Paris walking around with friends said goodbye to Mike and Jamie and went our opposite directions. After an hour delay of our train, we were off through the countryside of France watching the sun set over the fields with our compass due south headed straight for the ocean.
Though we arrived late into the night, we could tell immediately we were going to love Nice. In planning, we allowed ourselves a few stepped up places along the way and our current apartment is a stunner that cannot be beat. Our kitchen view alone has us wondering if we should just stay here until next Tuesday.
Our plans for the day consist mostly of exploration, sea breezes and probably a glass of wine by the water. Kristin got a nice run in this morning while I set off with my camera. On days when we can, we've had that routine for our mornings. Here are a few shots from our morning adventures. More soon!
When we started planning our trip to France, high on the list was finding some honest to goodness, authentic champagne. I am here to report that today, we had success! But let me back up first, because we have new friends with us! Last night Mike and Jamie arrived making our party of two turn to four for a fun weekend of exploring.
We let ourselves sleep in this morning before heading out to grab a rental car for the trip (thank you, Mike, for braving the Parisian driving!). With a few croissants and coffees to go, we hit the road for more countryside views. The Paris countryside does not disappoint and after a day of rain to wash away the haze, we enjoyed a spectacular drive.
We stumbled on a sweet, family-run champagnerie (is that a word?) where we died and went to heaven. They let us taste 6 champagnes and gave us some tips on what to eat with our different selections. After tasting we enjoyed a picnic overlooking the valley before heading back toward Paris (via one more champagne tasting, obviously).
If that wasn't enough for one day's adventure, we set off after dinner to catch the Eiffel Tower at night... wow. We walked up just in time to catch the twinkle lights, a once every hour occurrence. And with that, it's time to call it a night.
More biking, you say? Why not? Yesterday (Friday) was another one for the books (as all vacation days in Europe tend to be) . We started with our first move of the journey - did I really pack that much? And headed off to a new part of Paris. After getting settled we set off for Giverny, outside the city via train - destination Water Lillies. It was nice to have some downtime where there were no metro transfers or complicated routes, just a straight shot to our destination.
Our train arrived in Vernon where we grabbed a lunch to go and rented bikes to head 3 kilometers out to Giverny. I cannot recommend the quick sandwich and bike rental enough, it's been a fun way to see the sites and cities.
The path to Giverny provided a wonderful view into the countryside laying out just along the hillside with a view of the valley. We ate our lunch at one of the many benches lining the streets of Giverny and set off through the winding canals of Monte's garden. Thankfully, the ominous clouds held off their fuery, giving us just enough time for our adventure and the trip back home before the rain set in.
We anticipated unexpected opportunities to arise, but I could not have imagined our luck today getting to experience a concerto concert in 13-Century Sainte-Chapelle. We heard Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach under the glow of the stained glass as dusk turned to dark. It was an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking way to end an already fabulous day.
After the concert, we took a slightly longer route home to enjoy the sites and sounds of the city. We walked Notre Dame, over the Seine and through the bustling streets. I'm still so surprised by the number of people out on weekday evenings - how DO these Parisians do it?!
It was a cold, dark, slightly rainy day in Paris, but that didn't stop us from heading out for a biking adventure to Versailles. We started in Paris, watching the sun rise over the Eiffel Tower as we pulled into our metro stop to find Fat Tire Paris Tours. They are well worth it to go on tour with if you ever have the chance! Nick took us back to the trains and on our way to Versailles.
Once in town, we all loaded up on bikes, 21 people in all (which is quite a site if you can imagine us meandering down the streets in a huge slightly dazed blob). We had the chance to stop first at the market to pick up supplies for a picnic - bread, cheese, meats, olives, wine and a crepe to go. We then set off for the Queen's entrance into Versailles, can you imagine this entry?!
We then set off for the Queens palace, not originally built for Marie Antoinette, but she was certainly the one who made it famous. Nearby, we explored their pop-up hamlet where she and her best ladies would experience the peasant life within the comfort of the walls. It was all the rage to simplify, but Marie didn't want to fully give up the good life of 4 new shoes a week - so they played pretend!
From there, we wound around the royal canal to find a place for our picnic lunch (at a properly late 2pm, you understand the crepe to go now?). Lunch was accompanied by the history of the revolution in France and very deep understanding of then role everyone played along the way. Once we were packed up, we set off out the King's entrance to head back to the city center to return our bikes.
A little more waking and we found ourselves roaming the very halls where Louis XIV, XV, & XVI all lived and entertained their guests. Versailles became its current grandiose self in the years when Louis XIV wanted all his people where he could see them, living under one roof. It was extravagant and beautiful throughout the chateau.
The streets of Paris are bustling with people, music and the smells of tasty treats. It's cobble stone streets wind and turn and can leave you happily lost, stumbling upon some incredible buildings. Today, we walked. Everywhere. It was all about les incontornables de Paris (Paris attractions).
We are staying in Le Marais, a very cute and historical part of Paris which is full of cute shops, bakeries, restaurants and stunning buildings. We each took some time to explore on our own this morning - a run for Kristin, a photo walk for me - to kick off the day. The list of what we saw was incredible, site after historical site just kept popping up around every corner. In total we covered about 12 miles (not including the time spent on the Metro getting around) from Notre Dame to the Louvre, to the Arc de Triomphe, up Eiffel Tower stairs and back and around again. We ate croissants, macaroons, and crepes, drank coffee and wine, and finished our day at Pain, Vin, & Formage (bread, wine and cheese) for a classic fondue experience.
The city could not have provided a more welcoming intro. We hit great weather and are feeling incredibly lucky to have landed at such a beautiful time. Below are a few photos from our day. Thanks for following along!
The adventure continues tomorrow...
The planning part of travel always overlooks the very unglamorous looooong travel day with very little sleep. We are midway though our time adjustment on some severe lack of sleep. However, Kristin killed it with seat selection and scored us some front row, exit seats resulting in extra leg room and easier mobility. Plus, a nice foot rest!
Thankfully, Stockholm makes it easy to get out of the airport on your long layover and get a good, brisk walk, plus an abundance of little cafes and eateries that do not disappoint. We settled in for a veggie panini plus a Chocolate Ball that was an unbelievable treat - I don't think I can even remotely do a description justice, other than to say it was just what we needed for our first stop along the way.
Ready for our next flight, a good night sleep, and then a big day of exploring ahead!
"You're off to great places, Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way." (Dr Seuss)
Today marks the beginning of our Sistermoon Adventure. We are officially on our way! After a lovely family lunch we said, au revoir to the folks and the brother. Thankful for this awesome opportunity and looking forward to all that the next two weeks has in store.
We began planning in January. Europe in the Fall. Then city by city, we made our route. Paris for me, Pompeii for her, Prague for both of us. It was settled, and the rest would follow. Ten months of unveiling our journey later and we have finally arrived, one week until take off, and all we have left to do is experience it. A 'Sistermoon' to remember. (sistermoon <n>: an all inclusive adventure with your newly minted sister-in-law to revel in the early years of sisterhood.)
Let us not overlook the planning, however. As we've narrowed and cut down our travel wish list, we've learned a little more about everywhere we'll go. Planning plays an equally important role to the travel itself. It provides the opportunity to learn about cultural expectations, history you want to learn and transportation to get you there. It's meant learning a few new words - Bonjour! Au revoir! Merci! - and hoping those years of college Italian come back to me - Vino! Gelato! Cappuccino! Our trip has been a marker in this year that has served as a guidepost for goals, check lists and countdowns. And now we are here.
Documentation may arrive day by day, week by week, or city by city. I am making no promises other than the promise to take it all in. My camera by my side, I look forward to capturing the ordinary, and extraordinary and all the in between. Let the journey begin!
Community Relations. Photographer. Wedding Coordinator. Teacher. And coming soon to a resume near you, Wealth Manager. Life is full and ever changing and sometimes I look around and wonder if I'll ever find a single calling. But then, I heard Emilie Wapnick talk about what it means to be a multipotentialite, and I knew I found my answer - nope, never going to find it. Instead, I can lean into this idea that I am someone who has multiple interest and in the end, needs to engage them (often at the same time) in order to be fulfilled - that's my calling. So I've claimed my stake in the multipotentialite realm and am pressing onward with my various interests turned hustles. It makes life interesting and fun.