Archive for 'Personal Life/Adventures'
New Zealand is one incredible country. I’m not even sure what to say about this trip. As I’m sitting on my ninth airplane ride in the past three weeks, my final ticket home to Chicago, I’m at a loss of words. I’m sure over the next few weeks, months, and even years, my memories will only grow more and more fond of the kiwi culture. Two weeks will never be enough time to experience the greatness of New Zealand, but we sure tried to pack it all in.
We left Chicago MDW on a Tuesday at 2:25pm, got to LAX at 4:55pm, and flew out at 10:40pm. We arrived in Tahiti PPT on Wednesday at 5:05am, then left at 7:55am for Auckland, and finally arrived to our destination at 12:45pm on Thursday (we crossed the international dateline). Yes, it was as exhausting as it sounds. We had a couple hours to kill in Auckland before heading out to our first excursion, so we walked around and explored. We settled on drinks/appetizers at Northern Steamship Co. and dinner at Depot. Both were good, neither were MUST DOs – but as you’ll see throughout this post, most of my MUST DOs are activity based. The food was overall good, but not as good as I was expecting.
After dinner we drove 3 hours to Waitomo to spend the night at YHA Waitomo Juno Hall. At this point, we had been traveling for over 24 hours so we were pretty much zombies and passed out. The next day, we had breakfast at The General Store. This place is a MUST DO. It was the cutest little shop/cafe in Waitomo, and probably one of my favorite breakfasts of the entire trip. We also purchased local art from the shop which I loved.
After breakfast we did the Waitomo Caves Black Abyss Tour. MUST DO. This was hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We started the adventure by rappelling down into a cave, one of the parts was so narrow that you could only fit one person a time and it was pretty tight. If you’re claustrophobic at all – this might not be the adventure for you. Once we were down there, you could see the glow worms lining the walls of the cave. Then they took us down to a part of the cave where we flying squirreled in the dark (basically a zip line except you can spin 360 degrees around). After that we jumped off a cliff into inner tubes pulled ourselves through the water, then we all connected and floated down the river in the cave in the dark to look at the glow worms. We walked through the cave knee deep in water, army crawled through some tight spots, and even climbed waterfalls before finally getting back to the surface. Yes, I know how ridiculous this sounds – but it was incredible and I highly recommend it.
After the tour we drove back to Auckland for the night. We stayed at the Novotel Airport Hotel because well, after traveling for 24+ hours and caving, we needed a nice hot shower and clean beds. The next morning we took the ferry to Waiheke Island for our Zip, Wine and Dine tour. This day was so much fun and I would say Waiheke Island is a MUST DO. It was the cutest little island filled with wineries, friendly locals, great shopping, and delicious food. Our tour started with 3 ziplines over the vineyards and then a short hike through the rain forest where the tree that inspired the movie Avatar grows. Throughout the winery tour we stopped at Stonyridge Vineyard, Rangihoua Estate, and Casita Miro – all delicious wines, all beautiful landscapes. Shoutout to Evelyn for being the best bus driver/tour guide ever. After the tour we walked around the Waiheke Island shops; ate fish and chips/burgers at The Local with our new Aussie friends Lisa/Jari, and ended the day with a sunset cruise ferry trip back to Auckland to crash for the night.
The next morning we flew from Auckland down to Wellington for explore the city for a day. It was like a little kiwi Portland – filled with hipster bars and little shops. We had breakfast at Enigma, shopped Cuba Street (tons of little shops, highly recommend) lunch at Mt. Vic Chippery (delicious fish and chips), got drinks at Goldings Free Dive (hidden dive bar in an alley, had a Chicago flag hanging – highly recommeneded), drinks at Ekim Burgers and Havana; and got dinner at Mac’s Brewbar on the water because everything else was closed. It rained all day so a lot of the waterfront shops didn’t open. The farmers market and food trucks were great though. We stayed at YHA Wellington City Hostel which was GREAT and comes highly recommended for a clean, safe place to sleep on a budget.
And that ended our adventures on the North Island as we headed to Christchurch the following morning. If I would add anything else to the North Island – I’d maybe see Rotorua for the hot springs, but it wasn’t high on our priority list. People we talked throughout our travels were split. Some people said they loved it and some said we weren’t missing anything. That and I would do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Volcano Hike. It wasn’t in the cards for us – but look into it, supposedly it’s the best one-day hiking in New Zealand. Anyway, we spent just a few hours in Christchurch, shopping at the RE-Start Mall where all the stores are inside shipping crates. There were a few cool shops and a couple food trucks – I got a kebob and it was delicious. Meghan got a pizza from another truck and it was not. Could be the Chicago in us, but it was hard to find a good pizza in NZ. After lunch, we drove to Mt. Cook with a few stops along the way. This was a long day of driving, but the incredible sights along the way made it all worth it. We saw Hokikita Gorge, Lake Tekapo, and Lake Pukaki. The water color was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures…
When we finally arrived to Mt. Cook, it was really cloudy so we couldn’t see the tops of the mountains. We just settled into our room at the Mt. Cook Lodge & Motels and ate there. Mt. Cook is such a small little village in the middle of a national park, so there really wasn’t anything other than the resorts and the resort restaurants. We went to bed hopeful that the forecast of rain tomorrow would change, but unfortunately it did not. Our scenic flight/heli-hike of Tasman Glacier got cancelled due to weather issues. Luckily, Charlie – the owner of the Old Mountaineers Café in Mt. Cook who also runs the tours was flexible and rescheduled us for Friday when the weather was looking better. (MUST DO, even if you don’t do the heli hike or tours, drive through Mt. Cook and go to this Café – it might be my favorite place in the world). TIP: When booking rooms in advance, it’s definitely worth it pay the extra $2 for flexible booking. We had to change our reservations quite a bit around the weather. Locals said they hadn’t seen rain like this during a NZ summer in over 15 years!
Anyway, we decided we’d rather explore Queenstown/Lake Wanaka in the rain than Mt. Cook, so the next day we decided to drive to Lake Wanaka. We found this adorable café about an hour outside of Mt. Cook in Omarama called Kahu Café (MUST DO). Meghan and I both agree this was the best meal we had in New Zealand – it was simple, fresh, delicious, and the surroundings could not have been better. A few hours later, we made it to Lake Wanaka to see the Wanaka Tree, then shipped off to Queenstown for a few nights. We had dinner at Ballarat Trading Co. (just alright, wouldn’t call it a MUST DO) before calling it a night in our Queenstown Hill Air BnB (this area is about a 20 minute walk from downtown Queenstown but had an awesome view overlooking Lake Wakitapu where you could see the airplanes flying in and out of the Queenstown Airport.
The next morning was still cold and gloomy, and it definitely started to affect our spirits a little. We spent the day walking around Queenstown with our hoods up shopping, exploring, eating, and drinking… stops throughout the day included: Ivy’s Box Art Gallery (cute gallery along the Lake Wakitapu path covered in ivy), brunch at Joe’s Garage (where I realized NZ breakfast sauasage was not the same as American breakfast sausage), drinks at Surreal Bar (where the bartender made fun of my accent when I ordered a ‘s-eye-derrrrrr”, and Patagonia Ice Cream (which quickly became a favorite of ours and part of our daily routine). A last minute boat cruise around Lake Wakitapu capped off the afternoon before heading to drinks/apps at Eicharts (historic, cool spot, good food, friendly servers), drinks at Harry’s Pool Bar (a locals bar recommended to us from the bartender who made fun of the way I said cider), and a delicious steak and seafood dinner at Jervois Steak House. Lots of drinks and all of the food later, we made our way back up Queenstown Hill with hopes for better weather to come.
The next day, the weather still wasn’t cooperating so we decided to go for a white water rafting trip on the Shotover River (apparently rafting is the best when it’s raining). We had brunch at Captain’s Restaurant in town (pretty good food, not my favorite ambiance though) before our trip. White water rafting in Queenstown is a MUST DO. The drive on the bus alone was worth it. They took us through windy roads on the sides of mountains that felt like we were going to topple off of at any moment. We saw the rock that inspired King Kong. It was the stuff straight out of movies. And this was even before our rafting trip started. Because of the rain (silver lining) the conditions were so good that day that even the off-duty employees came in to raft with us. The rapids were so intense that 6 out of 9 rafts had flipped in the morning session, so the guides were pretty good about preparing us for that situation. Luckily, our raft never flipped and we made it through – but I can’t say enough how fun this day was. Highly, highly recommended. By the time we came home, we were exhausted – so we just grabbed a drink and dinner at Coalfire BBQ (good, again not the best BBQ I’ve ever had, but pretty tasty) and called it a night.
It was another early morning for us as we drove 3 hours back to Mt. Cook for our heli-hike. On the way there (sidenote: we drove through Lindis Pass which was a curvy road in the middle of rolling hills lined with lavender and wild flowers – really pretty drive – I’d recommended taking it if it’s on your route!), we stopped at the little shop (New Zealand Apline Lavender Farm and Shop) we had driven past on our way in/out of Mt. Cook the first time, but it was so small that by the time we saw it, it was too late to stop. Luckily, we had our eyes peeled for it this time. I highly recommend checking this place out. It was a tiny, one-wall store inside a shipping crate in the middle of a huge lavender field. They sold everything ranging from lotion to candles to lip balm to lavender oils – all of it smelling sooooo good and made right from the lavender in that field.
After we shopped, we drove a little further to Mt. Cook for our Heli Hike. It was INCREDIBLE. We flew in a tiny little ski plane through the mountains (probably the most scared I was the entire trip – super rocky flight, the plane was tiny so every gust of wind felt like it was going to take down the plane. Once we got to the top of the glacier, we snowshoed as a group all tied together in case the glacier cracked any of us fell down into a hole. It was one of the most jaw dropping, humbling things I’ve ever experienced. After a few hours we flew back into Mt. Cook where we had dinner at The Old Mountaineers Café – quite possibly my favorite place on earth. Definitely a MUST DO regardless if you do the heli hike or not. Find Charlie, exchange stories, and tell him I said hi.
The next morning, we hiked Hooker Valley. It was a fairly easy hike that takes around 3-4 hours, has great views of the mountains, you cross 3 wobbly cable bridges, and ends with an overlook of Tasman Lake w/ some glacier pieces floating in it (30 years ago, this lake didn’t exist because it was still completely frozen).
We had to be in Milford Sound in two days, so we started our drive with a planned overnight stay in Queenstown to break up the drive. Of course, we stopped at Kahu Café on the way out because it was that good. Seriously, go there. Omarama. Check out the weird antique store in town, too. Anyway, on our way back to Queenstown we stopped in historic Arrowtown to do a little shopping. Tons of great little shops, only takes an hour or so to do it all and we had plenty of time to head back to Queenstown for drinks/dinner. FYI – we were told that Devil Burger is as good as Fergberger without the wait by a local bartender… we tried both. Fergberger for the win.
The next morning, we left at 5am to drive to Milford Sound. It takes about 4 hours winding through mountain roads so make sure to give yourself enough time. We stopped at Sandfly Café in Te Anu for coffee/breakfast (warning: Queenstown/all the towns before Te Anu had nothing open before 9am – even the coffee shops don’t open until then; also this place wasn’t the best if you can find anything else open). We got to Milford and did the 10:30am cruise and then the sunset kayak trip. The cruise was gorgeous – I would definitely do it again and highly recommend it. The kayak trip was really long 4 hours (we did about 10 miles and it was pretty choppy water), so it was kind of difficult but worth seeing the sunset through the cliffs. If you’re up for a challenge, do it. If not, there are other shorter kayak trips you could try. The cruise was better for taking pictures, the kayak trip was more for a workout/adventure. We saw dolphins and seals on the cruise, and penguin during the kayak trip (as well as the seals up close and personal). We stayed at the Milford Sound Lodge which was basically a cabin in the middle of the woods. It was the only restaurant and it closes at 9 so make sure to stop and get gas and/or groceries before getting to Milford if you’ll need it.
We spent our last few days in New Zealand gallivanting around Queenstown. We stayed at Hurley’s (highly recommended, good price, clean, friendly staff, laundry available, and located just 5-10 minute walk off the downtown area). We did the gondola and took the luge down (very touristy; buy tickets ahead of time to cut the line; the luge was kind of random but fun – I wouldn’t say it’s a must do but if you have the time, why not?), had dinner at Fergberger (MUST DO; we were told to call our order in ahead of time and pick it up but every time we called the line was busy so we waited about 20 minutes to order and then another 20 minutes for our food – it wasn’t as bad as it looked – every time we drove/walked past Fergberger there was a line out the door). We also went bungy jumping off the Kuwaru Bridge in the morning – I would highly recommend this or the cliff swing in Queenstown. As you can tell from the pictures below, bungy jumping was awesome, and actually not as scary as you might think. It all happened so fast that you don’t really have time to be scared! Warning: I asked to dip my hands in the water, and I ended up going waist deep!
After bungy, we went to this adorable breakfast spot on Lake Wakitapu called Boatshed Café. The food was great and the view was even better. The rest of the day we spent packing and getting ready for our travels home. Travel Tip: there’s a little mall just outside Queenstown that has a Pak n Save, Briscoe’s, etc. (the equivalent of a Costco, Jewel, and Bed Bath and Beyond). It was great for buying cheap groceries, local beers, or pretty much anything you would need – we needed to get extra duffle bags to carry all our souvenirs home and Briscoe’s was perfect for that. Our last night in Qtown we got drinks at Pog Mahones (little Irish Pub, I wouldn’t recommend it, but we just wanted to sit near the water – instead you should go to the Ice Bar, which we completely forgot about!) and dinner at Fishbone. If you go to Fishbone get the Octopus Tacos. Seriously, maybe even get two orders (it’s an appetizer) and eat them as your meal. They’re that good.
After we left New Zealand we spent 3 days soaking up the sun in Tahiti. A 3-night stay at Manava Suite Resort was included in our flight deal. The resort was just okay. The food was expensive and mediocre, but there was an AWESOME food truck across the street that was cheap and delicious. It opens for dinner at 6:30 and I’d recommend eating every dinner there it was that good. Simple, authentic, delicious. We stayed in Papeete, but if you have the time, go to Moorea or any of the other Tahitian Islands.
That’s it! It was an incredible 3 weeks, let me know if you’re planning a similar trip and have any questions on New Zealand – I’d be happy to help or provide more recommendations. I’m also going to be selling some of my prints from New Zealand so I’ll have more on that soon
I rarely shoot family photos anymore as I’ve been lucky enough to focus on Weddings and Engagements, but when a little lady his cute turns one and just happens to also be my niece, how could I not snap a few pics? I won’t say much because her little face says it all – but I mean, how precious is she? Love this little girl so much, but don’t worry Carson and Chase – you’ll always be my favorite boys in the fam 🙂 To my brother and sister-in-law, you guys don’t look so bad yourselves! Love you all!
One of my favorite perks of the job is that it allows me to travel. I’ve been able to visit some amazing cities over the past few years for work – Portland, Santa Barbara, Colorado Springs, and even some places for personal adventures – Barcelona, Florence, etc… but still – New York City was at the top of my list of places I had never been. So when my California based clients Mil + Kris asked me to meet them there for a photo shoot, YES was the only word that came to mind. One of my good friends that I travel with a lot, Krista, had never been either – so I dragged her along with me for a little girls weekend getaway 🙂
Despite being under the weather, we definitely made the most of our jam packed weekend. Here’s what we did during our 3 1/2 days in the Big Apple:
Friday // We arrived super early on Friday morning, and the first thing we did was drop off our bags at our TINY, and I meant tiny Air BnB. It was supposed to be a one bedroom, but really it was the smallest studio I’ve ever seen. It made my studio in Chicago seem like a mansion (which was kind of nice to come home to!). It was definitely our first confirmation of rumors that we’d heard about New York apartments being small. It didn’t bother us too much though, as we knew we’d be spending most of our time out and about the city. We spent the afternoon wandering around different neighborhoods, making a stop along the way at Ess-A Bagel for lunch. I got the Lox on an Everything Bagel with Scallion Cream Cheese. It was delicious (see photo below). After that, we went to the 9/11 Museum and spent over 3+ hours there, reliving the horrifying moments from our memories, and hearing some heart wrenching stories/voicemails from people that were in the towers and/or on the flights. It was such an emotional couple hours… my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that was involved. After spending hours in the museum, we were exhausted from our long day, so we ended our first night at a little Italian restaurant in our Murray Hill neighborhood…
Saturday // Our second day in Manhattan started bright at early with an 8am shoot on the Highline and Grand Central Station with Mil + Kris. It is so beautiful up on the Highline, I definitely recommend it for anyone visiting the city for the first time and looking for a great place to run/walk take in some views. After the shoot, we brunched at this adorable place down the street from our apartment called Penlope. I had an amazing bacon and egg sandwich, which kept me fueled for our long walk through Central Park. It truly was massive. Krista and I spent the afternoon exploring the park, watching some Rec League Softball Games, as well some Little League Games. After a nice relaxing afternoon – the weather was perfect by the way – Krista and I made our way to Madison Square Park to get a Shake Shack snack… only to find out that it was closed for renovations 🙁 Don’t worry though, we got our fix at another one and Krista got to try her first Shack Burger! So good – if you haven’t been, head over to the one in Chicago (get there right at 11am to avoid out-the-door lines)… in my opinion (and I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this…) Shake Shack holds the #1 spot in my heart, yes… over In-N-Out Burger! A quick regroup at our apartment and we were back out the door to check out Times Square, where it was super crowded and gave me anxiety. We followed that quick stop at Times Square with dinner at Barbetta. The food wasn’t the greatest, but it was near the theater where we were seeing the Lion King – and I will say that the people watching at this establishment was some of the BEST I’ve ever experienced. I would probably go back just for that 🙂 After dinner we saw the Lion King – which as expected – was fantastic. The costumes, performers, and production was incredible… and of course you already know the music is great!
Sunday // As you can tell, we pretty much jammed everything we could into each day. So being that I was pretty sick (and still am recovering actually), when Sunday morning came… I could barely peel my eyes open. But we knew we had to make the most of it – so we went to the Brooklyn Bridge, watched some street performers, walked across it, saw Lady Liberty from a distance, and got some NY style pizza at Grimaldi’s before heading to see the Mets Game in Queens. Our seats at the game were right behind home plate and the weather was pretty much perfect – so it was a great afternoon 🙂 That night, we went to dinner at Blue Smoke BBQ (SO GOOD!), went to the deck of the Empire State Building, had drinks at a speakeasy above Five Guys (super cool spot), and ended the night at a midnight comedy show at Comedy Corner. Let’s just say it was a 3am night and by the end of the show – everyone in the room knew I was Filipino, from Chicago, had a boyfriend at home, and was in NY with my “white friend, Krista.” Our seats were directly next to the stage, so needless to say – we got called out A LOT. My face hurt after the show from laughing so hard. Definitely recommend checking that place out!
Monday // By the time Monday came, we had pretty much checked everything off our list of things to do. It was the first and only day that it rained while we were there, so we took advantage of the weather and gave ourselves a nice, chill morning breakfast at a place called Mud, and sat at a Starbucks and read until we caught our flight back home.
In the end, it was an AMAZING trip. I got to see and do everything I would’ve wanted to do – thanks to the awesome planning of my girl, Krista. The weather was great for the most part, I got to experience New York City… but I will say that it definitely made me LOVE Chicago a little bit more 🙂
A few weeks ago, I took a week long trip out to Arizona to visit my boyfriend (who was there for all of March for Cubs Spring Training), and my best cousin friend, her hubby, and new baby Jordy. It was a glorious week spent in warm weather soaking up sun – jam packed with hikes, DDD food spots, and quality time with people that mean the world to me. I left feeling satisfied with what I did with my time there, but you know me – I left with a list of things I want to do during next year’s visit 🙂
A few of my favorites from this trip:
- Hiking A-Mountain
- Bei Sushi
- Cubs Game to see Will Ferrel
- Defalco’s Italian Deli with my new photographer friend, Teresa
- Engagement Session with Bree + Erik at Papago Park – Hole in the Rock (and Henri our bird friend)
- Hiking Camelback Mountain (free lemonade stand at the top)
- Coyotes Hockey Game with Mike and Alex
- In-N-Out Burger
- Making “mystery pancit” dinner for Tiff, Mike, and Alex
- Working the Cubs Game with Alex
- Tom’s Thumb Fresh Market (BBQ in a Gas Station)
- Sweet Republic Ice Cream (two nights in a row)
- Hiking the Sedona Airport Overlook Trail
- Broken Arrow Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona
But most importantly, I loved the moments in between. Waking up in the mornings with Alex, spending the day with Tiff and Baby Jordy (yes, even the terrifying car ride where I really got to know Jordyn), seeing Mike and Alex get along so well, laughing so hard with Tiff that I cry – the quality moments that often get overlooked, but are usually my favorite and most meaningful moments. You’ll see a couple of those moments captured below…
Until next time, AZ.. here’s what I’m hoping to tackle next year 🙂
- Hike the other side of Camelback
- Devil’s Bridge
- White Water Raft the Salt River Canyon
- Eat Chicken Fingers from Canes
At the end of the month, I’m moving out on my own. I’ve lived with my two roommates for almost two years now – and we’ve had quite the time at 3E. I’ll miss living just blocks from Oak Street Beach, jumping on each other’s beds when we come home late at night, borrowing clothes and jewelry, but mostly I’ll miss those random nights where we have no plans but end up hanging out on the couch, ordering food, and watching a movie together… or more like Sam watches the movie and Sara and I fall asleep within 15 minutes 😉 I couldn’t have asked for better roommates a couple years ago, especially at a time where a lot in my life was changing and I needed my girls. Sara + Sam, I love you girls! It’s been fun and us all going our separate ways just means we have 3 different places to hang at now. We’ve done a lot these past two years, and here’s to making new memories, taking more pictures together, and living it up in the West Loop…
Every year, a big group of friends of mine do a Ski Trip over Superbowl weekend. Last year marked the first year we went big and took it out west to Breckenridge, CO. The past years before that we kept it local to the Midwest and went to Devil’s Head and Chestnut Mountain – those trips were just as fun, but a little bit different when it came to the levels of skiing (snowboarding for me).
There isn’t much I can say about Montana that my pictures don’t say better, but wow is Montana a beautiful state. The mountains, the trees, everything is just gorgeous. As for Big Sky Resort, it was so nice – I don’t think we ever waited in line for the chair lift, and the runs were basically empty. We rented ski in/ski out houses – and other than the difficulty I had on the toe rope… it was pretty convenient. If you follow my blog, you know I travel a lot…. But this trip is always one of my favorites of the year. Aside from the snowboarding, we also took a day snowmobile trip out to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I have no words to describe how beautiful it was. As soon as we entered the park, a herd of stampeding bison ran right past us, and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. We literally shared the trail with them, and some of the bison were no more than five feet away from our snowmobiles. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking…
A few weeks ago, my family and I spent a long weekend out in Phoenix, AZ to spend some quality time with some family we have out there. It’s funny, because the family we were visiting isn’t actually “family,” we’re not related by blood, there isn’t someone that married us into being family… but the closeness and love we have for each other is nothing short, and possibly even more than, many blood related families. Without getting into too much detail of the trip, to my loved ones in Phoenix – we love you. We’re so happy we could come out and see all of you, and you’re all in our thoughts and prayers every day.
While we were out there, we spent the mornings exploring at Pinnacle Peak and Sedona – and of course I had to snap a couple pics. I’m not sure if the desert life is for me, but it sure is beautiful ☺
To my favorite uncle, you were the best. I will never forget all those times you took care of me when my dad would drop me off on his way to work so I could play with Tiff. I will never forget your energy and jokes. I will never forget when you and my parents found out we had a NYE party at your house. And I will definitely never forget when you and my dad danced at Tiff’s wedding to Gangham Style. A few weeks ago you held my hand and said, “I want family and togetherness to stay in your hearts forever…” I promise you that it will. We love you.
It hit me the other day when I had to physically write the date on a check (who writes checks anymore, right?). 8…. 8, really? It’s already August. People are talking about how the days are shorter. There’s chatter about fantasy football drafts. I’m working on timelines for my September, October, and November weddings. Let’s face it… I blinked and I feel like this year is already more than halfway over. But I’m not complaining. I’m thankful. Because well, this year has been nothing short of perfect. And since I document so many of your lives, here’s a quick peek into what mine has looked like this year…
Ahhhh the last few cities of my European Adventure. If you missed the first two blogs, here are the links: Dublin, Madrid, & Barcelona and Paris & Switzerland. Let’s be honest. If you follow my work and/or any of my social media accounts, it’s pretty obvious that I love food. So up until this point of the trip, I was just excited to be eating different types of cuisines from Ireland, Spain, France, and Switzerland. It was all good and just fine… a corned beef boxty and fish and chips in Ireland; tapas, ham, and endless amounts of seafood in Spain; cheese and bread in Paris; fondue and wienerschnitzel in Switzerland. And then I got to Italy. And all the other good food I had in the other countries was BLOWN AWAY by the Italians.
Florence // Florence was a city that I had been excited about visiting from the very beginning. We gave ourselves 4 nights in Florence because we knew we were going to want to soak as much of it in as possible. Unfortunately, I became very sick in Florence, so I spent a majority of my time there in bed sleeping. But, before I got sick and the times that I absolutely forced myself to get out… we filled out time (and tummies) by going to this incredible little restaurant where the menu was hand written in Italian. We actually went there twice because it was so good and head and shoulders above any other restaurant that we had eaten at in Florence. If you ever find yourself in Florence, I HIGHLY recommend il francescano. We basically got a sample platter of all the appetizers… and I have to say the burrata with truffles might be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. So much better than any other burrata I’ve had anywhere. We also went on a food/wine tour which included two different types of espresso, a truffle sandwich, a wine/cheese pairing lesson, salted olive bread, pasta, breads/meats/cheese/strawberries with different types of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, more wine with biscotti type cookes, and of course gelato. And everything was delicious. We also visited the San Lorenzo leather market, got lost in every possible way because Florence is impossible to navigate, and went up to the Piazza de Michelangelo for some beautiful views of the city.
Rome // We only had a few days in Rome, so we opted to do the Hop on Hop Off Tour Bus so we could see as much as we could. We did actual tours of the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum/Sistene Chapel, but everything else we pretty much just walked around and saw. The city itself is just sold old and ancient, you can just feel how much history there is there. It truly was amazing to be in such a historic city. Sidenote: I watched Gladiator for the first time before going to see the Collosseum to get an idea of what went on there… what a good movie!
London // Our last quick stop on the European Tour was London. It was actually a really great feeling to be in a country where everyone spoke English. When we arrived in London, it almost felt like we were home, aside from the cars driving on the wrong side of the street and being terrified every time I crossed. We were only in London for a day, staying with a friend.. but we managed to see Buckingham Palace, a few churches, London Bridge, London Tower, and I shopped a bit on Brick Lane. We also had Bangers and Mash which was pretty delicious. I apologize for the photos, but at this point in the trip… I still wasn’t feeling well so I didn’t bring my camera when we were walking around. It was too heavy to lug around, so all the pictures from London were taken on my phone…
If you missed the first blog post from my Europe Trip, you can see Dublin, Madrid, and Barcelona here. Blog #2 from my European Adventure includes Paris, France and 3 cities in Switzerland that were some of my favorites from the entire trip: Zurich, Bern, and Lenk.
Paris // After a few nights in Barcelona, Cari and I jumped on a quick hour and a half flight to Paris, France. We weren’t quite sure what to expect here since we had heard mixed reviews, but I am happy to say it was a delightful 24-hours, and definitely a city I would like to visit again. We got into Paris in the afternoon, and I explored the city a bit before dinner… snacking on a nutella and banana crepe and setting my sights on the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I walked around and soaked up the city, practicing the little French that I knew to whatever Parisians would speak to me. Later than night, Cari and I went to dinner at this little restaurant I stumbled upon and had great reviews online. We ate delicious steaks, french onion soup, salad, creme brûlée before heading to a little store to get even more wine, cheese, and bread to have a picnic with on the lawn by the Eiffel Tower. The man at the store was kind enough to give us our bread for free, and he even opened our bottle of wine for us since we didn’t have an opener. The next day Cari and I went for a run around Paris, and then shopped around at the markets again before having another picnic lunch by the tower. It was a quick stop in Paris, but overall I’m glad we stopped in the beautiful town overnight.
(photos below taken with my phone)
Switzerland // Cari’s family was traveling through Switzerland the same time we were in Europe, so we took a quick flight from Paris to Zurich. It’s embarrassing to admit, but Cari and I didn’t even know what language they were speaking when we arrived in Switzerland… and when I bought my train ticket with euros, I was super confused when the machine spit some other type of currency back at me as change… hello Swiss Franks. But beyond my naivety, Switzerland was a BEAUTIFUL country. To be completely honest, it wasn’t on my radar for countries I needed to visit – but after visiting Zurich, Bern, and Lenk… it is definitely a country that I would LOVE to visit again, and might have been my favorite stop of the entire trip. Zurich was kind of like a typical European city, but from there we drove to Bern. The best way I can describe Bern is that it was straight out of a German disney movie. It was quaint little town, nicknamed the Bears Den… and they had a bear area in the middle of the city where bears just walked along the river. From Bern we drove to a little mountain town called Lenk, near Interlaken… and it was unlike anything I had ever seen. The little town we were staying in sat at the bottom of gorgeous mountain tops that were lined with trees, but in the distance the tops were lined with snow. Most people only spoke German, which made ordering dinner interesting, but even just hiking through the hills of this little town made me fall in love with the country over and over. I pretty much couldn’t stop taking pictures…
The last installment of my Europe Trip blog series is coming on Friday – Florence, Rome, and London! I promise it’s full of history, mouth-watering food, and of course pretty-pretty pictures. Don’t miss it!