Monthly Archives: September 2015

European Travels part 5: London

Hi, friends! Life has been crazy and I keep putting off the last 3 cities on my Europe recap. As little time as I have, I just want to get them on here, or else I know I’ll never finish and it will drag out waaaay longer than it needs to.

London, England. England was the third country we traveled to and was the place we were in the longest. We were in London 6-7 days. For those of you who have been and know how expensive it is, you probably thought it was a little crazy of us. We decided to stay in London the longest because of the fact that we had free places to stay here. Being hosted by friend is by far the best (and most budget-friendly) way to travel!

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Our first connection was with a family in Croyden. Croyden is a suburb about 30 minutes south of London. Now, before we got to London, 30 minutes didn’t seem like too far from the city. Once we got there, we quickly changed our minds. The cheapest transportation pass (per day) in London was about 18 pounds. Crazy! As soon as we figured this out, we scheduled our time accordingly and scrambled for a new place to stay in the city. Luckily, Hannah had a connection in the city who was actually going to have a vacant apartment during the time we would be there! She let us stay in her apartment for free the rest of our time in London. This made a HUGE difference, being in the middle of the city. If you’re going to London, do your best to find housing downtown!

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London is painted with historical buildings and architecture everywhere you turn. It’s a beautiful mix between the old and modern London. They do an incredible job preserving the old buildings and homes.

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The Camden Market is a district filled with thrifty finds, vintage stores, and an eclectic mix of tourists and locals alike. There is a clothing market and a food market. As funky as the clothing market was, I wasn’t too impressed with the quality of items. I was more drawn to the food market because it was filled with vendors giving you a true ‘foodie’ experience with foods from all over the world.

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The Borough Market is another great place for you foodies out there. They have every type of food you could think of! It’s a great place to get a meal + some souvenirs!

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One of our favorite spots was a coffee shop we stumbled upon called “The Book Club”. It had a great environment for enjoying a coffee, people watching, or grabbing a bite to eat.

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One of my favorite memories in London was when we did a ‘high tea’ at the Dean St. Townhouse. High Tea’s are very common in London, especially for special occasions. Everyone orders a different type of tea (you get your own pot), finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts. A perfect way to spend an afternoon. You feel super cultured and girly while enjoying a high tea. A little pricey, but it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
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  • High Tea at Dean St. Townhouse
  • Lunch at the Borough Market
  • Fish and Chips at Shakespeare’s Pub (it’s a must!)
  • A stroll or bike ride through Hyde Park
  • Seeing Buckingham Palace! It’s pretty surreal.
  • TRY PIMMS CUP! My trip to London made this drink one of my new summer favorites.
  • Camden Market
  • Clapham Commons. Grab a pitcher of Pimms Cup and a blanket and lay out on the grass!
  • Clapham Junction is a really young, hip area of London full of great restaurants and pubs.
  • Harrod’s. We never went, but I wish we would have just to have seen it!

Next Up: Amsterdam! Thanks for following along on my trip recap!

European Travels Part 4: Day Trips in Italy

On our trip, we spent the most time (a full week) in Italy. We knew that there were a few core places we wanted to stay (Rome and Florence), but we also knew that there are so many places in Italy we just couldn’t miss. Today I’m going to be recapping our three day trips in Italy: Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Venice! 

tuscany

Ah, Tuscany. The wine region. If there was anything on my bucket list for Europe, it was to do a wine tour in the rolling tuscan hills! And, we did just that. For this specific outing, it was just me and Hannah. We went with Tuscan Wine Tours for our wine tasting. It was about $100 a person and that price included a wine tasting class to start your day, transportation to and from Tuscany, tour of two local wineries, a classic tuscan lunch at the second winery. Let me just say, this was probably the best thing I spent my money on the whole trip. If you have the opportunity, you must do this!

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^The three sections are different grapes which produce different types of wine. 

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We learned so much, met a bunch of great people, and had one of the best meals of our whole trip. An unforgettable experience!

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Cinque Terre, have you heard of it? If you haven’t, you’re welcome. Cinque Terre is a region on the coast of Italy, made up of five different small towns. If you’ve ever seen that picture floating on pinterest of all the colorful little houses off the coast, this is the place. A lot of people hike from town to town, but we just decided to stay in one city for the day, explore, and lay on the beach.

One big mistake we made: I didn’t really know that one of the main attractions of Cinque Terre was the public beach. I had always known water was a part of Cinque Terre, but didn’t know how much beach there actually ones. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our bathing suits for this reason, but it was for sure one of my biggest regrets!

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Caprese salad while overlooking the italian coast with wine for the table. Doesn’t get much more italian than that! 

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venice

Venice was our last stop in Italy before we flew out for London! While I’m glad we can say we went, Venice was actually one of my least favorite spots. Don’t take my word for it though, I’ve heard some people say it was their favorite! For me, I kept wondering where everyone was! The streets seemed empty, which was quite the change from the busy italian streets we were used to. It was fun to get lost on the streets and alley ways of Venice, though!

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*My best advice for your time in Italy is to do a wine tour! You wont regret it!

*Get a liter of wine at every meal.

*Cinque Terre – don’t miss it. But be sure to bring swim suits. I would have loved to stay the night there if I had the option to.

*Gondola rides are way overpriced, but you can haggle!

*At some of the wineries, they also harvest olive oil! Since we didn’t check luggage, bringing home a bottle of wine wasn’t really an option. But, olive oil comes in a travel size, so be sure to get two or three or ten to bring home to loved ones!

*Be sure to try your best to stay in Venice when you visit. We stayed on the outskirts, which made the commute way further than desired.

To sum up my time in Italy, I will just say that I could have spent my entire month in this wonderful country. I’m set on coming back, that’s for sure. Next up, London Town!

European Travel Part 3: Florence

Let’s be real here: Florence is a dream. I think when it comes down to it, I could have spent my whole month of travel in Italy, and a big chunk of that month in Florence. Have any of you guys ever been? If you have, you understand why I feel like I could have stayed the majority of my time in this quaint, walk-able, culture-filled city. For those of you who don’t know, Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and birthplace of the Renaissance. It is full of history, art, and rich Italian culture. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s such a convenient city. It is smaller than most of the cities we traveled to. So much so that they didn’t even need a public transportation system! They had buses, but that was about the end of it. Most people walked or biked around the city. You can see the whole thing on foot, easily!

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Our Airbnb was located right on the river pictured above and below. It was the perfect location for us because it was far enough from the hustle and bustle of the city center for it to be quiet at nights and peaceful in the mornings. It was only a short 15 minute walk into the main part of Florence. We stayed at a bed and breakfast called Residenza Il Maggio. It was a small bed and breakfast run by one sweet lady who was always helpful and friendly. The b&b only had about 4 rooms, and breakfast was complimentary every morning! We loved our time at this bed and breakfast.

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Pictured above is the Ponte Vecchio. This is a well-known bridge settled above the Arno River (the main river that runs through Florence). The bridge is filled with tourists and locals alike, shops, vendors, etc. It is a common marketplace in the city.

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One of the best meals we had was in at a small little hole-in-the wall restaurant on the streets of Florence called Osteria San Niccolò. In Italy, or Europe in general, you seldom come across vegetables. It’s a lot of bread and meats and cheese. I practically jumped for joy when I saw this grilled veggie plate on the menu. It was just as good as it looks.

Italy-84Italy-88Italy-90Italy-91Find this photo booth in Florence! Totally worth it and way affordable! ^

Italy-92Italy-94Italy-96Story time! We had the coolest encounter with a well-known Italian artist on one of our last days in the city. It was evening, and the streets were crowding up with people coming out to eat and drink and be with friends that night. Hannah and I were sitting in a grassy area having some Jesus time while Kristie was out roaming around. After about 45 minutes, Kristie came back and told us about this artist that was having an open studio. We jumped at the opportunity to meet the artist she had encountered, and as soon as we stepped into his studio, we were overwhelmed with art, a beautifully messy studio, and a wonderfully friendly artist named Roberto Guarnieri.

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Guarnieri took the time to share some wine, show us his work, tell us about how he started, and even gave us a look off the balcony of his apartment. Quite the studio! Will always remember his hospitality and warmth. If you’re in Florence, give him a visit!

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Our last night in Florence ended with some takeout pizza from Gusta Pizza, a bottle of wine, and dining on the bridge in the middle of Florence. As the sun set over the Arno River, we couldn’t help but reflect on our time in this wonderful little city. It was by far one of our favorites, and we very well could have stayed the rest of the month….or our lives… in this amazing place.

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^The Duomo – a must see!

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^ One of our last nights in Florence happened to be a holiday. We were at dinner and all of a sudden we heard a big boom! The entire restaurant runs outside because everyone (but us) had been anticipating the annual firework show! We stood outside and watched this 30 minute firework show, hand in hand, feeling like the sparkling flames and lights were shimmering and sparkling just for us.

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^ Gelato on the river…every night.

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^ The view from our bed & breakfast’s balcony.

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  • Daily walk along the Arno River. Peaceful, beautiful, and an amazing view of the city, especially if you come from the American Embassy.
  • Rivalta Cafe – seated right along the river, this fun, trendy restaurant has the best happy hour and apertifs. Apertif means a ‘drink before dinner’. At a lot of restaurants, they also serve buffet-style small snacks with these pre-meal drinks. At Rivalta Cafe, if you bought a cocktail, you also got access to their small-snack buffet, which is usually a bunch of small appetizers that will fill you up as a meal! This restaurant also turned into a very social club atmosphere at night!
  • Gusta Pizza – best pizza around. Quick, too! Grab one togo and sit on the bridge to watch the sunset while feasting on italian pizza!
  • Piazza Michelangelo – Must! This overlook is the best view of the city. Bring up a baguette, cheese, meats, and wine for the full experience.
  • Gelato every day.
  • Visit some of the paper stores around the Ponte Vecchio! Florence is known for their hand-made stationary! The marbling is fantastic!
  • Visit the Duomo! It truly is breathtaking. If you’re willing to wait in line, they have tours of the inside!
  •  Do a wine tour! Florence is seated right in/next to Tuscany, which is wine region! I’ll cover our tour next post, but let me tell ya, IT’S A MUST!
  • Rent a bike or scooter. Such a fun way to see the city!
  • See The David! We didn’t make it to this attraction, but just know, it’s here in Florence.

While we were in Italy, we took a few day trips to Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Venice. I can’t wait to recap these beautiful places in the next post! Thanks for keeping up thus far!