A Hop, Skip and Jump to Munich

Hello, Munich. How I’ve missed you!

Hi friends,

So part deux of our European adventure story starts off in Munich, where we stayed at the Citadines, which are more small apartments than hotel rooms (meaning we had a little kitchen and a living room, but no one to clean the place up when we left for the day.)

The location was perfect for Oktoberfest–it was just a short walk to the grounds where the tents are. It’s not the best location if you’re in Munich mostly for the city center, though, like to visit Marienplatz or stroll through town. (For that type of trip, I’d highly recommend the hotels I stayed in during this trip to Munich a few years ago.)

Lucky for us, we were there for Oktoberfest, and our adventure began that Sunday night …

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Last Thursday, When We Were Berlin-Bound

It’s hard to believe this wall ever divided Berlin. So sad.

Hey friends! So it’s Monday, October 8th, which can only mean one thing–Chris and I are back from Europe.

Cue the violins.

Seriously though, this was one stellar, awesome, amazing trip. In what amounts to 9 full days, we managed to cover Berlin (where Chris ran a marathon), Munich (where we had so much fun at Oktoberfest!), rent a car and drive from Munich to Salzburg to Venice for more than $700 (that story will come later), see Venice in less than 24 full hours and hit up Rome for all the classics.

That’s a lot.

But despite the fact that it was a whirlwind…it really didn’t feel that way. I felt like we were able to spend a good amount of time in each place, and I actually did end up feeling rested and relaxed when we arrived back last night.

So anyway, without further ado, how about I take you on back to last Friday, when Chris and I arrived in Berlin at around 8:30 a.m…

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Home Swapping Sites on our Horizon

Hi friends!

So it’s t-minus two days before Chris and I jet off on our little European adventure…I am sososo excited!

Although, we did hit a minor bump in the European road yesterday when Chris emailed me to say that our pre-booked hotel in Rome had unceremoniously unbooked us. Apparently something with Chris’s payment information was incorrect, and he had missed the warning email.

Oops.

So there we were, three days before leaving without a place to stay in Rome.

Chris quickly booked a back-up hotel for us, but it wasn’t in an area of Rome that I thought would be central to all the lovely things we have planned. As I was searching hotels.com for something more adequate, a coworker of mine mentioned using home swap sites, like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb.

I’ll be honest–I’ve never actually used one of these sites before. I know plenty of people who have, and they’ve always been more than happy with the results, so I figured, why not give it a try! After about a half hour searching on Airbnb, I found a cute little studio apartment for rent in an area of Rome that seemed lovely, and that had received tons of good reviews on the site.

So…we booked it! This, my friends, will be our first forray into the world of booking through home swap sites.

Who knows, if all goes well, it might be our new norm.

Do any of you guys use sites like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb? Have you generally liked what you’ve found? Do you prefer one site over the others?

Bis bald, friends!

The Beautiful Lights of Italy

How beautiful is this light fixture??

Hi friends,

Let’s take a quick step back for a moment, shall we? I’d like to go back to about three weeks ago when I was in Italy, surprising my family with a trip and having the time of my life. While there was so much there that I saw that I loved, one surprising thing that I noticed was how ornate and beautiful all of the light fixtures were. Nary a bathroom ceiling was left unadorned by a fabulous, sparkly, glowing chandelier.
So, my friends, I did what any aspiring photographer would do–I took as many photos of them as I possibly could.

Care to take a trip with me down memory lane?

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My Trip to Calabria, Part Deux

Welcome back friends! I’ve come to the part of my travel blogging that I always hate–the part where I write about the rest of the trip and then I’m done. It always feels so finite, like I’m actually finally done with the trip. There’s nothing left to do. The last word has been written. As long as I still have these blog posts to write, the trip is still alive in my mind, you know?

Anyway, as they say… all good things must come to an end, I guess.

So here we go, on with the final few days of my trip.

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A Family Trip to Calabria, Italy

Hi friends!

Well I’m back from my super-secret trip, and I can finally tell you where it was to: Roccella Jonica, in Calabria, Italy.

So why was this such a big secret? Well it was a surprise to my family who lives there (my grandfather’s sister and brother, as well as another sister who was visiting from Australia) that I was coming. It was a surprise that my aunt and uncle and two of my cousins were coming, as well.

Aren’t surprise visits just the best? This one totally took the cake.

Let me start at the beginning …

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Diary of a Traveling Friend: Tuscany

 

Amy in Siena Square

Welcome my friend Amy, who just returned from a well-deserved trip to Italy.

 

Thanks for the post, darling!

I just got back from a five-day trip to Florence, and one of my favorite parts was a day trip to Tuscany. I booked the trip (Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour) through Viator, and the tour guide, Becky, was awesome. We left Florence at about 8:30am and drove through the countryside.

Our first stop was in Siena, a beautiful medieval town. We walked through the town, first stopping to see the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the oldest surviving bank in the world. We also ventured through the Siena Duomo, where four statues are attributed to Michelangelo. We also saw the Piazza del Campo, which our tour guide told us is the third most beautiful square in the world. (Piazza San Marco in Venice is supposed to be the second most beautiful, and I can’t remember what No. 1 is!) We got a bit of free time to walk around the city, and I bought a beautiful cutting board made of olive wood and some homemade doughnuts. Yum!

We then drove to an organic farm and vineyard called Poggio Alloro, in San Gimignano, another small Tuscan town. We did a wine tasting of four wines and had an amazing lunch of homemade pasta, cheeses, and salads. The food was so fresh, and we had a typical Tuscan dessert (almond biscotti dipped in dessert wine). After lunch, we drove to the town of San Gimignano and had some free time to walk around and view the amazing scenery.

Our last stop was Pisa, which is much more touristy than the other towns—but it was so much fun to see the Leaning Tower. All in all, the day was filled with great scenery and great food. I definitely recommend taking this tour if you have an extra day in Florence!

 

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (the oldest surviving bank in the world)

 

a church

 

 

 

 

Nothing beats lunch in Italy

 

 

Michelangelo statue

 

 

San Gimignano

 

 

 

San Gimignano

 

 

It’s Almost Valentine’s Day—Are You Looking For Love?

Romantic Indian elephants.

If you are, these 10 cities are the World’s Most Romantic Cities, according to Frommer’s. There’s Paris, of course, and Florence, but a few of the others surprised me. Jaipur, India, and Bruges, Belgium? Really? Isn’t there a whole movie that basically centers around the idea that Bruges is boring?

Maybe not. If Frommer’s says it’s romantic, I’m sure there must be something romantic about it.

Also exciting? Sydney, Australia made the list. What didn’t make the list? Any city at all in the U.S. Ha.

As for my romantic Valentine’s day, I realized a few nights ago that this will be mine and Chris’s first Valentine’s day in four years in New York City.

For our first Valentine’s day, Chris was living here.

For our second Valentine’s day, we were here.

Last year, Chris was here.

So this will definitely be the first holiday in good ole’ NYC. Wonder where the night will find us.

Bis bald, friends! Where’s the most romantic city you’ve ever visited?

Photo via

I’m taking Italian—and man, it’s hard!

My Australian/Italian family

At the ripe old age of 27, I’ve decided it’s time to embrace my heritage—my Italian heritage, that is. After an eye-opening trip to visit my Italian family in Melbourne last year, I realized how much a part that culture is in their every day lives, and I desperately want that. In fact, while we were there last Christmas, another of my grandfather’s sisters who still lives in Italy called. It would have been amazing to have been able to actually speak with her—but alas, she spoke no English, and my Italian was limited to ciao and grazie. Not very scintillating conversation.

Now I know—I will probably never, ever be able to speak fluent Italian (actually, according to my (adorable) Italian grandmother, if I don’t speak it every day I’ll just end up forgetting everything I learn anyway. Thanks nonna.) But I’m undeterred. It’s something I threw on my bucket list years ago, and so when the Groupon landed in my inbox offering five lessons for a pretty good price, I took the bait.

Yes, I know—five lessons isn’t much. I’ll probably end up signing on for more at the end of these five weeks. But last night was my first two-hour session at the Rennert school (which just happens to be conveniently located across the street from my work. Seriously, it was meant to be), and it was pretty intense, but exciting. With only six students in the class (all girls, very interesting), I really feel like I could learn a lot in 10 hours. Luca, our teacher, seems to have the patience of a saint, so that’s always helpful as well.

I’m off to Brooklyn to dog sit again this weekend, which I always enjoy, and I’ve brought along my Italian homework as well. I’ll keep you updated as to my progress, and maybe (just maybe!) I’ll have an Italian-written post some time in my near future (it’s always good to shoot for the stars).

Bis bald my friends (and arrivedercci!)

In the News: Is Ancient Rome a Thing of the Past?

What would Rome be without the ancient ruins?

As a person who has just recently arrived back in the United States after a trip abroad to the fantastic, magical ancient city of Rome, this recent article in the New York Times really struck a nerve with me.

“As Rome Modernizes, Its past Quietly Crumbles,” the article boldly pronounces in its title. Excuse me? What now? I was just there, I thought when I first saw this. I never want Rome’s past to quietly crumble. There are still far too many people out there who have yet to make the trek to this place that is unlike any other, still so many people who have yet to be changed by said trip, like I was.

According to the piece, collapses this past spring at ancient sites have caused archaeologists to warn about other “imminent calamities” that threaten Rome’s architectural birthright.

Unfortunately disasters like that— the natural degradation of architecture that has lasted for hundreds of years—seems unavoidable, if we are to keep these structures untouched by modern ways of preservation.

But there’s also the little problem of certain people who feel that Rome would be best served with upgrades, like modern art museums, and spruces to make the city appear more “presentable” for a potential bid as the site for the 2020 Olympics.

It’s all a bit much to comprehend. In my own humble opinion (you know, as a traveler, and not someone who has any more specific ties to Rome than that), Rome is perfect as is—sans modern museums and spruces. I love the fact that there is hardly a subway system in place in Rome for the simple fact that the Romans want to preserve their underground integrity and the “city” that lay beneath the streets. What a novel idea.

All I can say, really, is that if Rome is to advance towards a more modern age, I’m certainly happy that I had a chance to see it in all its current splendor.

Installment Four: An Unplanned Day 2 in Rome

Last Friday Steph and I started our day off with a blank slate.

Or, it was a blank slate in the fact that we didn’t have a tour planned or meals that would be fed to us at their specifically designated times. Other than that I had my map, and my list of suggested places to eat from my co-worker, and my own list of all the places we hadn’t hit yet on our tour from the previous day that I had decided we absolutely had to see before we left.

So I suppose it wasn’t totally blank.

Happiness is a new, gorgeous city with nothing but a map, yum food and all the time in the world.

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Installment Three: When in Rome, day 1

A little Italian countryside on the train from Rome to Florence

Last Thursday, at around 11 p.m., Steph and I had made it to our final European destination—romantic, wonderful, beautiful Rome, and as tired (and sweaty and dirty) as we were, we were really excited to be there.

So remember that backpack that I mentioned back in Paris? The one that had all the travel documents in it? It also had detailed directions of which train to take from the airport into Rome, and walking directions from the Termini to our hotel, hotel Le Petit, which was only about an alleged 7 minute walk.

But the thing was, had our flight left on time, we were supposed to have arrived in Rome around 7:30 instead of 11 p.m., which would have made it a bit less sketchy for us to fumble our way around a foreign country, and find our way from the train station to our hotel (I can now tell you, having lived through this trip already, that it’s laughable how close our hotel was to the train station. Make a right, walk five minutes, make another right and you literally walk right into the train station. But at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, after picking up our luggage, we had no way of knowing how easy it would be).

So as we entered the main part of the airport (no customs, no luggage check, no passport stamp. What’s up, Italy?!), I started to wonder if taking the train was really the best idea, still (despite my detailed notes….thanks to you, Chris!).

Turns out, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it before we were approached.

“Need a ride?” a man with a thick Italian accent approach myself and my sister.

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Last Minute Touches on a European Adventure

Here we go now!

My sister and I finally set off into the sunset on our Euro-Adventure this Sunday—although I feel like we should have been there and back about a thousand times already, with all the planning.

From back in February, when we really started searching for flights and hotel reviews and travel plans, our itinerary has morphed into something that we’re pretty happy with—but planning certainly didn’t come without its stresses.

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We’re Almost There!

Let this be a lesson to you ladies and gentlemen, have your ducks in a row before you sit down to plan your trip, or else it will DRIVE YOU CRAZY!

On this Valentines day, as my boyfriend traipses around Japan with his best friend, I’m sitting at my mom’s house planning out my trip to London and Italy with my sister for her graduation. Let me tell you- this is not easy. First, there’s the timing aspect. It has to be after graduation (and possibly after a graduation party to pay for it), but before she starts grad school in the fall. All of these factors combined leaves us with only a short time period to plan the trip, which also, unfortunately, happens to coincide with the most expensive time to travel to Europe- the summer.

After a lot of back-and-forth (will we stay with a friend in London for a few days? Will it be too expensive to book two separate tickets from two separate places? Will a hostel really be that much cheaper than a hotel (that answer might surprise you)). After all of this back-and-forth, I think we have a plan we can get on board with (and, hopefully, afford). It goes a little something like this:

Fly into London, stay with friend for a few nights
Book a cheap(ish) sleeper train that will take us from London to Rome (with a short stop-over in Paris, which I see as a plus, my sister is on the fence about it)
Stay at a cheap(ish) hote that got decent reviews and apparently is in a decent area of Rome to get to sites and such (NOT a hostel, surprisingly. This hotel is actually cheaper than the decent/safe hostels we were looking at, and we get our own room. I guess we’ll have to let you know how it works out when we come back).
Book a couple of day trips around Italy
Fly out of Rome back to NYC

Overall, I think it will work. This is my sister’s first trip like this, certainly her first out of the country, and it’s our first alone together. So, I think it’s safe to say we’re still in the midst of figuring out our ‘travel relationship,’ but we’re coming along quite nicely. And soon, my friends (after we actually book this trip!), we’ll be here:

And here:

So, my friends, until we actually book the flight…bis bald…see you soon!

P.S. Does this intimidate anyone else?!

I mean, I thought the New York City subway map was scary, but this is what Chris had to deal with for his trip from the first airport to his hostel in Tokyo before he boards his second flight to where his friends live. Can’t wait for that update!