One Month in Europe: Part 6, Amalfi Coast

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We departed from Rome and began making the journey to the Amalfi coast, which is not the easiest place to get to. From Rome, we took a train to Naples where we stayed in an Airbnb overnight before hopping on another train to Sorrento. Naples is not the safest place, in my opinion. Perhaps it was the neighborhood, but it was definitely sketchy and luckily we were in safe hands at our Airbnb hosts, who picked us up from the train and also drove us to the Sorrento train in the morning. We barely stepped foot on Naples ground. From Sorrento, we took a bus to the Amalfi coast - something we booked last minute (yes - this is the part of the trip we were winging). Gah. A bit exhausting, and if I were to do it again I’d just cough up the $ for a private car to drive us, at least part of the way, and not deal with the logistics of it all.

When we arrived we nestled into our cozy Airbnb, which was high up on a hill in Praiano. Praiano is nice, but it lacks the energy that Positano has, so I would highly recommend staying in Positano because it’s just an easier central base to get around. We found ourselves taking the bus to and from Positano almost every day, and it wasn’t the most convenient thing in the world. However, we did find some gems in Praiano, particularly the restaurant Costa Diva that was absolutely stunning and the food was amazing. Just for that experience alone I don’t fully regret our location!

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In Positano we mostly strolled leisurely, stopping in at local places to eat. We also spent time at the beach, kicking back and enjoying some champagne as a newly married couple should. I also learned that there are three main beaches in Positano, but the main beach, the Marina Grand Beach, (the one with the orange umbrellas) is the best, most glamorous and busiest. Unless you are looking for something super laid back, that’s where you want to be. It’s also surrounded by restaurants, shops, and it’s full of great people watching.

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As part of our honeymoon, we decided to book a fancy dinner. We arrived at the Champagne and Oyster bar at Le Sirenuse Hotel for some relaxing and indulging before heading up to our dinner reservations at La Sponda inside the hotel. Good news and bad news here: The hotel itself is charming and magnificent in every way possible, it’s an absolute dream. I highly recommend (if it’s in your budget) to sip on champagne and eat some oysters at the Champagne and Oyster bar if nothing else. It overlooks the beauty of Positano and it’s just so chill and enamoring. The bad news: This place is pricey. We did it to ourselves, we realized, when we decided to do the tasting menu at La Sponda. And while the atmosphere is stunning and the service is superior, the food didn’t quite live up to expectations. My recommendation if you go would to just be to get an entrée, skip the tasting menu, and be there for the luxury of the surroundings. It’s incredibly romantic.

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 La Sponda

La Sponda

Another gem we stumbled upon in Positano was Casa E Bottega for a super fresh and delicious lunch. This place hit the spot so much that we went here twice, and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since. The food is healthy, interesting, and just plain good. The interior is also beautiful yet casual - and acts as a partial home decor store, so you might pick up something for yourself after lunch. The only downside here is that they only have inside seating, but who cares? It was just as nice.

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Inside Casa E Bottega

On another one of our days spent in the Amalfi coast, we took a day trip to Capri island and stopped in at the blue grotto along the way. The blue grotto isn’t always accessible, since it depends on the tide - but we were lucky enough to be the last crew of folks that they let in before it was a no go for later arriving tourists. Basically how it works is they put two people in teeny tiny little row boats with a man who rows you through (ducking all the while) a very tiny entrance into the grotto, where you spend under 5 minutes witnessing the beauty of the ultra bright blue water. I believe it costs around 10 euro, but I can’t remember. During our 5 minute adventure, Chris sparked his inner adventurous spirit and asked if he could jump in! I of course stayed put, and snapped some pics of his silhouette swimming in the deep blue, wondering when he would get back into the tiny boat safely. We exited as the last tourists, and the guide charged Chris 50 euro for his dip. Scammed, I tell you! Worth it? Still not really sure, but Chris would say yes.

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Capri island, to me, wasn’t super eventful. Granted, we didn’t do much research prior to arriving, but it just seemed like another place to walk around, check out tourist shops, and have lunch. There was really nothing particularly interesting about the island to me. What was more beneficial about the trip was the boat ride in and eyeing the rock formations on the way, checking out the surroundings of the island, and actually exploring some of the nooks and crevices of the rock formations along the shore. Note that we did zero research, so there might be something worthwhile that I’m not aware of!

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Overall Amalfi was a great place to relax, take in some sunshine, and get away from big cities. We enjoyed the downtime but were even more excited for our final destination - Greece!

One Month in Europe: Part 5, Rome

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From Florence, we made our way to Rome. In my early twenties, I visited Rome for three days and it was my favorite part of a much longer European itinerary. It was a much different experience then, as there was no Tripadvisor or blogs telling you what’s what and where to go. We had to go into a creepy basement in our hostels and pay to get a phone call with calling cards to communicate with our family so far, far away. It was also a different time in my life, so a Rome bar crawl was appealing as well as many things I don’t have interest in now. However, I did go back and pay my respects to the landmarks I once witnessed, and Chris had never experienced Rome so we checked the boxes. Our weather wasn’t great, and admittedly one day we stayed in and watched Netflix when it was pouring outside. When in rainy Rome, Netflix.

We stayed in the Trastevere area which was ridiculously charming, full of ivy walls everywhere you look, cobblestone streets, and adorable doorways.

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Near our Airbnb, we stumbled upon a sandwich shop called Donkey Punch which had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. They also had a pretty great beer selection. Super casual, simple and near our Airbnb, so obviously we ate there more than once.

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On one of the most beautiful days, we toured the Pantheon and had lunch at a touristy place outside, because location. I’d say the Pantheon is worth a visit for anyone who hasn’t been to Rome. The columns and interior dome are stunning – plus and it’s a classic Rome landmark.

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We also made our way to the Colosseum, mostly because Chris hadn’t been. My first time visiting I wasn’t overly in awe, but most people are, so don’t take my word for it. Weather wasn’t on our side this day, so we did a quick tour and then off we went.

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What’s a visit to Rome without a stop at the Trevi fountain? We were sure to get some gelato and linger for a bit and then made sure to toss our three coins into the fountain. There are legends/rituals that go along with the coin tossing, so make sure to follow them :) The first legend says to throw the coin from the right hand over the left shoulder so that you’ll make it back to Rome one day. Another legend states that you should toss three coins into the fountain. The first coin guarantees that you’ll return to Rome, the second is for a new romance, and the third will ensure a good marriage.

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One of the last main things we did in Rome was visit the Vatican, and though it was different this time around I will never not be in awe by its magic. When I was 22, I remember making my way into the Sistine Chapel. You could hear a pin drop, the room felt sacred and untouched, and goosebumps were abundant. It was surreal in my mind, and my heart dropped just being in the midst of this wonder. The majesty of that moment burns in my mind until this day. Fast forward 12 years later, and it’s very different. People are taking selfies of themselves and the art, violating the no talking rule, and concentrating more on the photos and uploads than the beauty of the moment. It was hard for me to witness that, and I wanted to erase it from my memory and hold true to an older time when it felt so sacred. Regardless, it was still absolutely beautiful, and I hold on tight to my time in 2006.

As far as where we dined, Chris and I sort of winged this part. We did go to L'Arcangelo (the BEST gnocchi I’ve ever had - though I wouldn’t recommend the atmosphere and location) as well as another boutique restaurant that was very high in demand with lines out the door. I’m forgetting the name, but it ended up not being anything that great and we sat next to two tourists and quickly realized we’d been trapped. I wanted to make it to Roscioli, but we didn’t have time.

That’s mostly it for Rome! The next part of our trip is the part we were very excited for - the Amalfi coast.

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One Month in Europe: Part 4, Florence

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Our first stop in Italy was Florence. We only had two days built into our itinerary so we wanted to make the most of our time. Since we were sort of winging the middle part of our trip, we booked a very last minute Airbnb and it worked out perfectly. We were close to the Statue of David at the Accademia Gallery and about a 10 minutes walk into central Florence. 

I'd visited Italy about ten years ago, but only traveled to Rome and Venice. I'd heard so many mixed reviews about Florence vs. Rome, so I thought it was time to see for myself. Florence to me is smaller, cleaner and has more of a boutique feel to it than larger and grittier Rome. They are just different, both extraordinary in their own regard. 

We made a point to see the statue of David, and eventually caved and bought the group tour tickets while waiting in line. The line was a 3 hour wait, and we just didn't have time for that, not with only 2 days on the itinerary. If you have luxury of planning ahead, I'd look into the best times to jump in line for David, or purchase a ticket ahead. One of the most memorable experiences of our trip, I was blown away by the scale of this marble work of art. And the fact that Michelangelo was only 27 years old when David was created. 27?! I was watching Netflix and going to bars. Ugh. And the fact that I'd read about him in Art History but seeing the statue in person was truly the only education I ever needed.

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The other majesty of Florence is the Duomo. It truly took my breath away. It's one of those landmarks you have to experience in person - the magnitude of it all can't be captured in a photograph. We didn't go inside, buy tourist tickets, or climb to the top. We simply admired it's greatness as we passed by, snapping a few pics along the way.

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I also highly recommend strolling through the Boboli gardens. I think Chris and I walked 30k steps this day. The grounds are massive and absolutely beautiful, statues and treasures at every turn. We hiked to the very top where we found a garden maze and extraordinary views of Tuscany. 

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Our food game wasn't really strong in Florence, we popped into random places - some good, some bad. Gusta Trippa was a very authentic joint that served lampredotto, which is a popular Florence meat (the cooked stomach of a cow). I was grossed out, my husband loved it. 

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Right before we left, I was adamant about visiting a different sandwich shop that was listed #1 on Tripadvisor. It was 9 am, I didn't want a sandwich, neither did my husband - but I insisted. I HAD to try the #1 sandwich place before we left! This is where things get really sad. I barely understood the sandwich maker, ordered something terribly disgusting, and sat outside with my poor victimized husband who didn't want a sandwich, forcing him to bite into this undesirable sandwich. That was when I had to really take a good look in the mirror and tell myself to get over FOMO if it's not meant to be.

When I was in Europe in 2006, there was no Tripadvisor. There were no stickers with star ratings in windows. It was perfectly mysterious, adventurous, and story book like. Your expectations weren't let down if the food wasn't great because the place "had 5 stars." You weren't relentlessly chasing hype and other people's opinions. You were just there, enjoying the city in the most authentic way. Those were simpler times, times that I miss because they were so untouched and real. Europe is still magical, but back then it was truly a damn unicorn. 

While we wanted to visit the Uffizi Gallery, there wasn't time, and we were exhausted form cramming in as much as possible – but it's definitely another place to check out while in Florence. Onward to Rome!

One Month in Europe: Part 3, French Riviera

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After our very low key wine tasting in Beaune, we made our way to Nice to explore the French Riviera and get some relaxing beach time. For this stay we used HomeAway and found an adorable place that was just outside the main downtown area. Upon our arrival it was high seventies and sunny, so we made sure to soak it all in and explore as much as we could. After doing some light research on the fly (we didn't plan much ahead for this part of the trip), we decided to hike to the top of Castle Hill to take in the views. Really beautiful scenery and a great day to just stroll. 

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We were also very humbled to walk down the Promenade des Anglais and take in the memorial from loved ones mourning the loss of family and friends from the truck attack in 2016. The Promenade is a beautiful pathway that's right along Nice's waterfront, great for people watching and just taking in the scenery. 

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We climbed down a ladder to the beach and laid out on the rocks (which really weren't that comfortable, but when in Nice!) and Chris spotted a bottle floating in the middle of the water (the Baie des Anges), slowly making it's way to shore. We couldn't help but chase after it and to our utter joy it was a message in a bottle! We immediately opened it up only to find a message written in french that neither of us understood. Either way a very cool experience. I mean who finds a message in a bottle, this is movie stuff guys.

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One of my favorite parts of Nice is Old Town, an area with loads of charm, colorful facades and adorable shops. It felt truly European and an easy way to spend the day popping into shops and getting (lots of) gelato along the way. 

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Before I move on to a few day trips we took, I must mention one of my favorite little cafes in all of our travels throughout Europe: Le Bistroy. Such delicious french toast with lime zest and scrambled eggs! A must try if you are in Nice, seriously. We went twice.

After spending a few days in Nice we decided to venture out to Eze, a mountaintop village, for a day trip. I'd heard amazing things and all of them proved to be true. Charming, ecclectic, artful, lush - an absolute love! I wish we'd had more time here.

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Since we had limited time, we started to traverse to the Jardin Exotique d’Èze , the main reason I wanted to visit Eze. a garden at the top of the mountain that overlooks the entire village. The journey to the top was filled with narrow pathways, adorable shops, and charming nooks everywhere we looked.

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As we reached the top, we walked through a fantastic restaurant, the deli, which was small, cozy and everything you'd want to enjoy after a short hike up a mountain. We had to bypass it to begin with in order to make it to the garden, only to find out the garden closed at 4pm. It was 4:01pm when we arrived, and the rules were strict. We weren't getting in. Dreams. Crushed. All I have is this desperate photo looking through the gates to what would've been a glorious experience.

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However, let's talk about the good news. We got to spend the rest of the day sipping wine at the Deli, hanging out with the owner (who is an amazing human being) and eating delicious sandwiches. We were also graced with the presence of two early twenty-something back packers of whom we bestowed our thirty-something wisdom upon. It's one of my favorite memories of our entire trip, the simple experience of spending the day in this little oasis on top of a mountain in Eze, wine in hand, good conversations, and complete peace. We walked away with a few bottles of their olive oil, which we still have till this day. 

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The mountainous paths of Eze are filled with garden statues and a quiet serenity that evokes reflection. Nietzsche Path is another popular attraction that many venture on, if we only had the time!

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We also made it to Monaco for a day, but the weather was miserable and we didn't really plan much. I just remember a ton of yachts and checking out Prince's Palace. Nothing overly memorable, but I'm sure with some planning and better weather it's a lovely place to spend your time. 

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We loved the French Riviera but after 4 full days we were ready to head to our next country, Italy! In my next posts I'll explore our time in Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi coast. Thanks for reading!

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One Month in Europe: Part 2, Beaune

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From Paris, we made our way to Beaune, about a 2 hour train ride from Paris. We wanted to explore the Burgundy wine region and get a different taste of France that was a bit more out of the city, and this was the perfect place to do it. 

One of my favorite parts of Beaune was the Bourgogne Evasion half day bike tour we did through the region. We were lucky to get last minute tickets the day before.

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We were given lots of wine and lots of knowledge. On our final stop during the tour, we walked through a winery in the Pommard region and got an in depth education on how the winery works from a French winemaker at Domaine Lejeune. Chris said he saw other wives in the group snap chatting photos of this man with heart emojis + "Sexy French Winemaker". How childish! And no I did not send pictures of him to my friends. At all...

Before we left, Chris (to the jealously of the other men around us) asked if they had any vintage wines in the cellar to purchase. They did, and we were fortunate enough to take it back to our Airbnb with us. (Also, just an FYI, riding a bike somewhat tipsy is fun but also semi-dangerous). We stopped at a local store, bought some paté, bread and meat and paired it with our wine. One of the best meals!

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Our Airbnb was on a really beautiful street, and the most adorable man lived across from us. He would pop out now and again to smoke a cigar, and I couldn't help but think he was the cutest. Had to grab a capture of him.

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The streets and surroundings of Beaune were very white and rustic, filled with locals and very quaint moments to take in, like this dear lady trimming flowers outside of her home.

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Another area we explored in Beaune was the Hospices de Beaune. When in Paris, our bartender recommended it to us, so we thought we'd give it a shot. The gothic architecture was stunning, intricate and unique. However, I wish I loved the tour more. To be be honest, going through sort of brought me down. We looked at old hospital beds, an old kitchen with medicine jars, and then I sort of wiped it from my memory. However, if you do more research on it, there are a number of interesting stories to be told if it suits your fancy. I just wasn't there.

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That's it for Beaune! It was a quick stay and a great taste of France from a different perspective. Our next stop: The French Riviera.

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