Prague – Sweeter Than Eye Candy

In Prague, I ate traditional Svickova – which is pretty much the Czech version of Thanksgiving dinner. Recommended by a friend who lives in Prague, it definitely made me feel more at home. Instead of turkey and mashed potatoes though, it was beef tenderloin in a gravy served with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce. Becherovka was just as prominent in Prague as it was in Karlovy Vary, too. So lots of herbal (38 herbs to be exact) after dinner drinks were happening and I wasn’t mad about it 🙂 Aside from eating like a local Czech citizen, I instantly fell head over heels for the city of Prague. Confidently calling it the most magical city I have ever visited, and my new favorite spot in Europe. The Golden City sparkles with such character, charm, color and life. Keeping its authenticity from the luck of not being bombed in the war, Prague is a true testament of old European beauty.

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Prague lured me in the moment we stepped off the train and hopped into a cab. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and headed straight towards the Mala Strana neighborhood (Mala Strana meaning, Lesser Town or Little Quarter…but don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing less interesting or less beautiful about this part of town), where we would be staying at a beautiful ornate Preferred Boutique HotelThe Alchymist – which was located right next to the US Embassy, so security was quite impressive in our cul de sac of cobblestones. The hotel held such gorgeous features and was pure luxury. My husband, mother-in-law and I dropped our bags off, I sat and stared at the beautiful Bohemian crystal chandelier in our room, and then we immediately set out to explore the neighborhood and grab lunch. We stopped at a corner cafe, had a couple of beers, stopped in a couple really cool markets and got to know the area a bit better. After doing a lot of research on Prague food and dining, we realized that our hotel had a fabulous restaurant! So we decided that after a long day of traveling, and with a rain storm coming through that night, fine dining at the hotel sounded wonderful! After dinner we got a Becherovka at the tiny bar, where I was hypnotized by the amazing interiors (and maybe a little by the Becherovka pour!).

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Prague fit the perfect irony of luring me in by the past and keeping my full attention of combining the present and future all in one. The artistic architecture and pure grace of the candy colored buildings, which were all in excellent shape by the way, combined with the cobble stoned streets captivated me for a full 72 hours. Known as the city of gold, the shiny color was present at every angle. And the richness of the city was magic. Unexplainable by words of blogging, really. All I can tell you is… if you have a bucket list of places to go, cities to see, Prague should absolutely be at the top of your list!

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Wednesday was my favorite day. Thursday was too, actually. Every day and every single thing about Prague was just my favorite! We walked over the infamous Charles Bridge – which provides the most gorgeous views of the city from all angles and also graces the path with 30 intricate statues dating from the 18th century. Narrow and crowded cobbled lanes lead us east into Old Town Square. Where I fell I love. The Square was dominated by Gothic steeples of churches and the Old Town Hall clock tower where the intricate astronomical clock amazes the crowd. At the center of the square lives a dominant green monument called the Jan Haus Monument, where locals would sit on the steps, chat, and snack under the sun. Also near the Square is the popular art nouveau Municipal House, decorated by the most talented of Czech artists and architects of the early 20th century. We marveled in amazement at the charm of the Square… and that was the moment I knew this city was really special.

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As I have mentioned, I love churches… and lucky for me, so do my side kicks (my hubby and Mama K)! So we peeked into the two most well known churches in Old Town Square – Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church. Both beautiful and very different, making learning about their history and glancing up at their ceilings all the more interesting. Something I have noticed in some of these Western European cities is the significance of the crown. A lot of designs, art and decoration were inspired by crowns. And many of the churches chandeliers were designed in the shape of a crown, which is kind of awesome and very intriguing.

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My mother-in-law read about this DIY (do it yourself) walking tour around Prague that showcases the significance of the most prominent buildings and their history. So we did that, with my husband being our lead tour guide, and it was really fun! We ended our tour at the area which was once the Jewish Quarter. Before I studied up on Prague, I had no idea the importance of the once large Jewish community Prague had. At the start of World War II, Prague had a healthy 118,000 Jewish residents living in the city. By the end of the war only 10,000 had survived to call Prague their home. History like this stirs a lot of spinning in my head, and I was just so compelled by the Jewish Museum, Old-New Synagogue, and Old Jewish Cemetery. The part that hit me the hardest though, was seeing artwork that had been preserved by young Jewish children that were being held captive in concentration camps. Seeing their struggles and feelings through crayon construction papered stick figures was extremely hard for me. It made me so sad.

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Famished by our excessive walking and DIY touring of the city, we happened upon the fanciest of streets! Nicknamed “Paris Street” for all it’s lavish high-end shops and jewelers. We found a restaurant on the street where we sat amongst cigarette smoking Bottega Veneta bags and Prada shoes. I would have felt really insecure given my frumpy outfit choice of the day if I hadn’t just left the Jewish Quarters and realized how lucky I am to be living such a beautiful life. We walked through the entire city, enjoying its wonders, and headed back to our hotel – where I stepped into the spa for my first manicure/pedicure of the trip. A two hour affair where I relaxed in the joys of pink toe nails and cubical-free fingers 🙂

That night, we walked back over the Charles Bridge, where we noticed sunset views over the water and city which made it sparkle more than ever. We dined along the river at a trendy restaurant that felt the tiniest bit familiar to me. For all of my Philadelphia friends, it had the same feel of a new and modern Stephen Starr restaurant. It was a really cool and hip place called Mlynec – and our hotel concierge had to fight for a reservation for us, so I knew it was going to be good! All three of us ordered the signature dish – veal filet mignon schnitzel. Yes, you heard me. We got thick veal filet’s that were breaded and deep fried, schnitzel style. And we devoured every last bite, that’s how good it was! We ended the fantastic dinner with a Becherovka, of course, and cobble hopped back over the Charles Bridge, where pitch black skies made the city lights on the water sparkle even more!!

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Thursday was a day to remember. We walked up steep cobblestone lanes to the famous Prague Castle that sits overlooking the city. It is Prague’s number one attraction and is a must see! We timed our visit perfectly so that we were present during the Changing of the Guard – happening every hour with the most spectacular change with flag fare and a flag ceremony happening at noon. This was quite a popular thing to do for tour groups and locals, so we were lucky to arrive early enough to catch front row views. It was so cool! See photos below.

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We walked about the castle courtyards and explored all areas of the property – all really breathtaking and beautiful. We toured the spectacular Vladislav Hall which was located in the Old Royal Palace and saw some really neat rooms (personally, Hofburg Palace in Vienna was far more impressive to me). We then stepped into hands down the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen (and I have seen many cathedrals in my day), St. Vitus Cathedral. It was covered head to toe in dark wood carvings and details with colorful stain glass masterpieces draped throughout. It absolutely blew me away. We then made our way to the Basilica of St. George, which is Prague’s finest Romanesque church. It was amazing. We made sure we saw St. Wenceslas Chapel, which was really old and eerie, but super cool at the same time. And then ended our three hour escapade in the Treasury where we were swooned with jewel-studded crowns, crosses and relics (relics are small, decorative boxes or capsules that were given as gifts back in the day – they were once believed to create miracles). We couldn’t leave though without strolling through a secluded neighborhood hidden in the courtyards of the castle. Tiny row houses of rainbow colors with tiny dwarf-like doors and home replicas of what living spaces used to look like way back in the day were displayed for people to tour. It was so cute and so much fun!!

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After our castle adventures, we walked even further up steep cobblestone lanes to a Prague brewery my friend living in Prague told us about – St. Norbert’s Brewery. It is her favorite place to go, so obviously we had to try it!! We had some local beers, beef goulash soup in bread bowls and beer cheese. It was so much fun being amongst happy Prague folk and indulging in local fare. Speaking of my friend, after we walked back to our hotel, she met us there to catch up and chat about all things Prague, all things travel and just all things life! Her name is Sarah and her and I went to High School in Wisconsin together. She is a year younger than me and has been living in the Czech Republic for two and a half years now! Living with family (her Aunt, Uncle and little cousins) in a small town an hour outside of Prague for a while and just recently (last November) moving to the big city of Prague. She is so well traveled and has such interesting views on life, we had the best time with her! She took us to a tiny wine bar in a cold basement that looked to have once been a wine cellar. It was awesome. We had been desperately wanting to find a good wine bar, but when they are hidden underground like that, only the locals can find them… So we got lucky having her with us! She gave Mike and I some good advice and suggestions for our future European travels and we filled her in on what’s happening in the States 🙂

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We hugged Sarah goodbye and thanked her a million times for meeting us and then headed straight to dinner. We dined that night at a true Czech restaurant located in the Mala Strana neighborhood, only minutes from our hotel – Konirna. And that is where I ordered Svickova – Sarah actually being the one who told us about it! It was our last night in the Czech Republic, so I had to order a genuine Czech dish. And it was delicious! On our way to dinner, we stopped at the infamous John Lennon Wall – which was heavenly. On this trip, I have developed a new obsession and appreciation for graffiti and this wall was just amazing!! We took some photos and just soaked in how awesome it was. It made me love Prague even more than I already did, which I never even thought was possible!

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The next morning, we boarded a very early fast train to Berlin. Going from big city to big city, but with two completely different vibes. I’ve heard mixed reviews on Berlin, some people love it, some people not so much…. So I was excited to form my own opinion.

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Until tales of Berlin’s eerie history, wiedersehen!

Venice – Stepping Into Never Never Land

In Venice, I ate like a celebrity. But seriously. My husband was not on the same page as our concierge (not quite sure what happened down at the concierge’s desk, but it couldn’t have gone well), so he decided he would make all of the dinner plans on his own from then on. Best thing to have ever happened because we found ourselves having really fantastic, memorable meals. Aside from dining at A-listers secret spots and eating fine Italian steaks, Venice was surreal. The most beautiful (and most expensive) city where no cars are driven and everyone gets around by foot, water taxi, water bus (also known as vaporetti’s), or the fancy way…. gondolas. It was out of a story book where glittering teal canals peeped through every angle and the buildings date back to the twelfth century. It couldn’t have been a more romantic spot to mark our final stop in Italy. 20140430-132122.jpg We arrived by train early Sunday afternoon where we then jumped into a water taxi that glided us right through the canals to the tip of our hotel. Our hotel sat right on the water just steps away from San Marco Square. San Marco Square was a little scary to me – not only because of the massive crowds and wandering tour groups, but also because of the birds. The bird situation was not normal…when reading about Venice in a few of my nerdy travel books, they warn you about the birds. They also advise you about what you’re supposed to do if a pigeon poops on your head…… Yes, this part takes up almost an entire chapter of a book (for those of you who are curious (I was too) – you’re not supposed to wash it out right away, you need to wait until it completely dries and then shampoo it out of your hair, washing it out while still wet will only make it worse). I took this chapter very seriously – wearing my little red riding hooded Patagonia windbreaker with the hood up every time I’d walk through the Square. I got a lot of strange looks from fellow tourists, and I knew the locals were making fun of me… But if only they knew… Sunday was a bit gloomy and damp, so we found ourselves tucked away in a cozy Italian restaurant close to our hotel – Vino Vino – and just a rock skip to shops like Miu Miu, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, and so on… We shared an afternoon bottle of wine from the region and each got a big plate of pasta. I ordered the special – pasta with meatballs. It was so exciting because this was the first time we’ve seen meatballs on any menu since we’ve been in Italy! How ironic is that? They were really good too! We roamed around the cobblestone roads, crossed a lot of really neat, old bridges, and took a big cat nap. We woke up rather late for Venetian folk to still be serving dinner (9:30pm), so even though our concierge informed us that there would be nothing open, we went on a voyage to prove him wrong (if you can’t tell, he was my husbands arch nemesis). Lucky for us, we happened upon the cutest Italian restaurant right along a back hidden canal. And they were more than happy to serve us! Watching the gondolas and opera singers float by while eating a late dinner was a real treat. You don’t get those experiences anywhere else, so we made sure to take it all in and enjoy our time there. We then found a snazzy little bar hidden amongst a dark cobblestone alley where we enjoyed expensive cocktails, felt fancy for a moment, and headed back to bed.

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Monday took a lot of concentration. We would be spending a lot of time in San Marco Square, so I needed to be on full bird alert (they seriously attack/harass you, it’s not a joke). We started our day by touring the Doges Palace, which held a ton of history. We got to walk through old prison quarters and see true artifacts. It was fascinating. We then took a stroll through the perfect streets to a place we read about, the happiest place of all…. Sandwich Row. It was an entire row of sandwich shops and it was an absolute dream come true. I had been craving a good sandwich for weeks now, I typically eat sandwiches all the time back home, and the only time we have stumbled upon a sandwich shop in Italy has been in Florence. So this was a grand moment. My husband and I were dancing in the streets due to a serious sandwich high. Granted, the sandwiches weren’t that good, it still felt satisfying to eat them and remember that they really do still exist. We then made our way to San Marco Basilica – the awe-inspiring church in the middle of San Marco Square. I got in a few fights with herds of pigeons and some ridiculously obnoxious and oversized seagulls, but we made it in the church safely. It was so beautiful.

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Monday night was the night of our Hollywood dinner. I challenged my husband to find me the best restaurant in Venice that would serve me a true Italian steak. He was dead on. He read about a place that was hidden in a back alley, extremely hard to find, that served incredible steaks – Trattoria da Arturo. It didn’t have a very robust range of reviews on Trip Advisor because it is rarely ever visited by tourists. After getting completely lost in the dark back streets of Venice, we finally stumbled upon the restaurant. Upon our arrival we got some strange, but welcoming looks from the two owners. One of the owners, who I believe also helps in the small kitchen, was the cutest old Italian man. With white hair and the warmth of any sweet grandfather, I immediately fell in love with him. The other owner was an adorably sweet and eager to please little Italian man. You could tell hospitality must have run in his family, for he had the charm and wit that made us want to stay and hang out with him all night long. Mike and I were the only two customers in the restaurant. It felt so intimate in the tiny space, almost as though we had planned a private romantic dinner in a dark, hidden, Italian house in a secret alley of Venice. The owners seemed confused and baffled as to how we found out about their restaurant. Embarrassed to say my husband did some extensive google research and that we love secret spots in hidden alleys (sounds weird, but they’re always the best!), we told the men we heard about it from a friend. After hours of drinking wine, eating pastas and indulging in unbelievably huge steaks in the most savory of sauces (my husband’s came in a green peppercorn cream sauce and mine in what almost reminded me of a vodka cream sauce….both unbelievable), we became fast friend with them. They hesitantly began telling us tales of their restaurant. One tale being…. Ten years ago, an extremely successful Hollywood Producer (Producing the movie The Matrix and many other blockbuster hits) was on holiday in Venice and stumbled upon this hidden gem, much like Mike and I did. This Hollywood hot shot started telling his “friends” about the restaurant, and it has now become a favorite amongst stars such as Barbara Streisand, Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Cruise, and the list continues. It has become such a Hollywood favorite that every July, the Producer flies the two owners and their head chef out to LA for two whole weeks to cook for him and all of his A-list celebrity besties. Causing the restaurant to shut down the entire month of July. We were soon smitten’d by two incredible Italian men, sitting at a table together, sipping (martini glass sized) glasses of grappa, looking through these awesome genuine photo albums of them with their celebrity buddies, and all sharing stories and experiences with one another. It got really late, way past our bedtime, and it was time for us to hug goodbye and be on our way until our paths crossed again. Because of all the grappa, we were a bit loopy when leaving the restaurant. It took us entirely too long to get back to our hotel, we chased a fat rat down a dark, narrow street, and I fell asleep on top of the comforter in my dress. I think we can all agree it was the best night ever.

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On Tuesday, we slept in (for obvious reasons) and then decided to get lost on the quieter streets of Venice. But before that, we were led across the huge bridge and took a stroll through the farmers market, where we tried the juiciest strawberry’s and witnessed fresh sword fish being filet’d and oysters being shucked. We then went to the coolest lunch spot Mike had read about. It supposedly is known for having the best Italian styled tapas in the area. It was a super tiny, closet sized place, that had a couple stools along the one wall. We were lucky enough to snag two stools. We got two of everything so we could try it all – my favorite being the meatballs and the fried eggplant, prosciutto and tomato tiny sandwich, Mike’s favorite being the raw swordfish carpaccio with apples and cheese. We then walked all over the quiet, more residential streets along the canal. Everything was so beautiful. We ended our day with a Bellini from Harry’s – Harry’s is this super old, swanky bar where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out. Also known for their clever invention of the Bellini! Because of this history, the Bellini’s there are not cheap! But well worth it. We then took a sunset gondola ride through the canals, which was so romantic and so much fun… We got to see where Mozart bunked when he spent his time there, and where Napoleon lived! It was really neat. We ended with dinner at a seafood restaurant our two Italian friends from the night before had recommended. The dishes were so different there, which was really cool. Unlike any seafood dish I’ve ever had. It was the perfect way to end our trip.

 

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20140502-180918.jpg Moments like these that we had in Venice cause me to take a step back and realize just how amazing these unforgettable memories Mike and I are making together really are. I feel lucky every single day to be sharing such experiences with the love of my life and can’t wait to share all these stories with our kids one day.

Wednesday is a day of travel. Venice to Vienna! Ciao for now, Italy! And servus, Austria!

Lounging on Lake Como – Bellagio Style

In Bellagio, I ate peacock. I know, it sounds a little strange and inhumane, but I promise I secretly researched it from the restaurant bathroom before ordering it (my dear friend Ashlee, who loves peacocks, whose entire wedding was themed peacocks, please don’t be mad at me!!!). It is not endangered and it is an edible game species, so I was OK. I promised my Dad before I left for Europe that I would try new things. So I thought that trying peacock was a step in the right direction! Aside from the peacock, Lake Como was heavenly and Bellagio was the most perfect little town. It has been one of my favorite stops thus far.

Milan’s train station was the most hectic transportation portal I have been to in a while… Or maybe ever. Mike and I had to closely intertwine our fingers just so that we didn’t lose each other in the hustle and bustle of the crowds (I do really like holding his hand, so I really didn’t mind!). It was a very unexpectedly long travel day for us. While on our way from Cinque Terre to Milan, where we had a train transfer to get us into Como, there had been a tragic event involving a person purposely falling onto the tracks. This caused all trains to be delayed.

While impatiently sitting still on the train in the midst of our journey, we met the coolest, most beautiful couple… and they were from California! They looked to be in their early 30’s and were traveling around Europe for five weeks together… with their two young children! How cool is that? Leslie and Aaron had been planning their trip for a lot longer than Mike and I had, and they were so unbelievably organized (or at least they made it seem like they were!). Their little girl was four years old and little boy was just 10 months. And nobody seemed stressed. They made traveling with kids look fun and easy. I know people who would never think of doing this, but seeing Leslie and Aaron so calm and nonchalant, was so refreshing. Being from California might have helped, but their entire attitude was very chill. They were seriously such a travel inspiration to me! Hearing their stories about their travels and how they handle traveling with two young kids was so interesting. I told Leslie (the young mom) she should blog about it! I think a lot of new mothers would love a blog with tips and tricks on how to handle traveling as a young family.

The more we chatted with this couple, the more notes we took on places or go, things to see, and how Airbnb works – this really cool website that allows you to rent out peoples homes and apartments in different cities. We were telling them how we were really nostalgic for a home cooked meal and movie night together (our favorite Friday night activity since we’ve started dating). Eating out all the time and living out of hotels every night can be exhausting, so they had mentioned this would be the perfect solution. With two young kids, they had been utilizing Airbnb in almost every city visited due to space and practicality. We have obviously heard about it from friends and family, but never really took it too seriously until now. We also realized, while impatiently waiting, that we were all traveling from Cinque Terre to Como…. And get this…. We were all staying at the same hotel in Bellagio! Small world if you ask me. Meeting their family and hanging out with them made the three hour delay go by a lot faster!

When we finally got to the Milan train station, we quickly switched trains to a slower rail that would take us to Como. When arriving in Como, Mike and I ran (literally sprinted) across town in the rain to catch the ferry that would take us across Lake Como to Bellagio – the town that we would be staying in. I can’t say it enough, but because of all of the sprinting and running like chickens, I am so thankful Mike challenged me to pack super light (again though, I am still not thankful when trying to find something to wear out to dinner every night). Needless to say, it had been an extremely tiring day.

When we stepped off the ferry into the town of Bellagio, it was like heaven. The most beautiful, charming little town was awaiting us, and all of the chaos we had been through that day was worth it. Bellagio sits right on Lake Como, the most gorgeous lake in Italy. My husband and I are suckers for pretty lakes. We’re in love with them. It might be because we grew up in Wisconsin and spent our summers on lakes, but we often converse about how we’re proudly lake people as opposed to ocean people. So if you can imagine, we were literally in heaven. The town is small, but quite dense. It sits amongst a hill with fabulous restaurants, boutiques, ritzy shopping and cafĂ©s scattered throughout. Unlike Cinque Terre, the hotel options were limitless here. Being a top honeymoon destination (and I can see why – it’s perfect!) the hotel situations were rather luxurious. With a few hotels on the bottom of the hill sitting right on the lake, some on the slopes of the hill in the town where restaurants and shops sit, and some on top of the hill with stunning views overlooking the lake and the Swiss Alps, you really can’t go wrong. Mike and I stayed at a darling luxurious boutique hotel that sat right on top of the hill. We had our own private balcony that overlooked the mountains and the lake, where we would often drink wine, eat cheese and sip espresso. It was perfect.

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After being in Italy for two weeks, it had finally felt like we were on a real, relaxing vacation. I was happy 🙂 On our first night in Bellagio, Mike and I walked down the hill to a hotel him and his family stayed at years and years ago – Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Their family constantly tells stories about their time and experiences there, I just had to see if for myself. After not much thought at all, my husband decided he wanted to splurge (big time) and that we were dressed “nice” enough to eat at the insanely glitzy Michelin Star Chef restaurant inside the hotel. With floor to ceiling windows that looked right onto the water and the Alps, white table cloths, long-stemmed candles that lit up the entire restaurant, multiple servers dressed in white tux’s per table and champagne toasts, I felt like a movie star. A really important movie star (like Meryl Streep or someone cool). This is where I ate peacock. Our wait staff assured us that it was their most delicious dish on the menu. It was a homemade peacock tortellini pasta in a light peacock stock. A little hesitant, I decided to run to the bathroom, turn my cellular data on, and google whether or not it is humane to eat peacock. I love trying new foods and I wanted to order it so badly given it was their most delectable dish, but I couldn’t do it without knowing it was OK. Lucky for me, it’s totally fine. The restaurant has their own peacock farm right up the hill where they respectfully and organically raise over 100 peacocks a year. Mike and I both ordered the dish and it was amazing. The taste of peacock, in certain ways, reminded me of dark turkey – you can’t go wrong with the dark meat of a turkey. After an extremely nice dinner, we made our way up the cobblestone steps of the hill and found ourselves at a really neat wine bar that was tucked away in what looked to be an old cellar. It was called Aperitivo. On our walk there we ran into Leslie, Aaron and family, which was a pleasant surprise! The whole night was just such a treat.

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On Wednesday, we woke up early, had breakfast, and spent the entire day exploring the town of Bellagio. It was close to 80 degrees and the sun felt so strong, we must have gone through an entire tube of sunscreen (Mike and I love sunscreen, we’re avid re-appliers and proudly pale people). We found ourselves in the early afternoon at a local deli that my husband’s grandfather used to love. It was really special. I lurked around the cheese counter, trying just about every cheese they had to offer while my husband picked out a bottle of local wine. As we were walking out of the deli, wine and cheese in hand, my husband took my hand and dragged me into the Missoni boutique we had earlier passed. He ever-so-thoughtfully let me pick out any scarf in the store. He then also picked one out for me. It was my first souvenir of the trip – two gorgeous Missoni scarves. The poor guy has to listen to my constant complaints about having nothing to wear and about having to wear the same outfits over and over again, he thought getting me some scarves to help switch up my wardrobe would lessen the late night pillow talks about my struggles of living out of a suitcase. He was right. 🙂

The town of Bellagio is built up a hill, sort of similar to Cinque Terre. There are five or six staircases made up of old cobblestone steps that lead you from the top of the hill to the bottom. Along all of the steps are really cute restaurants, cafĂ©s, and shops. My husband and I wanted to see it all. So we got quite the workout in walking up and down and up and down steps all day long… Having few beers here and there. My husband took me to a really shady hole-in-the-wall sports bar where him and his brother would drink beer and play video games all day long when him and his family visited on vacation years back (please keep in mind my husband was 16 at the time….). Because this is where he spent majority of his time in Bellagio, he had just as much exploring to do as I had. We each had a beer at my husband’s old stomping grounds and walked around some more. Exhausted, we made our way back to our hotel where we sat on our balcony, drank a bottle of wine, ate some cheese, and watched the sun set. That night, me, my husband, and my new Missoni scarf, went to dinner in the town at a place our concierge had highly recommended – Ristorante Bilacus. I had ordered the prawns in a homemade spaghetti. It was delicious! We then found ourselves back at the wine bar we had visited the night before. My husband naturally made friends with the bartender (nothing new), so we had to go back one last time.

Thursday was a sad day. It was our last day of relaxation in Bellagio. We sat by the hotel pool in the heat, walked around the town some more, had lunch right on the lake, and boarded the ferry back to Como, where we caught the fast train to Milan. Our itinerary is packed with a couple big cities all in a row, which can be overwhelming, so we really cherished our time on Lake Como where we got some real vacation time together.

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Until tales from Milan, ciao!

Dreaming of Capri

In Capri I ate a ton of gelato. I actually think there was a day where I had two cones in a row, different flavors, of course! The pizza and the seafood were phenomenal too. If you can’t tell, I love food! Aside from the food, the island of Capri was an absolute dream. From the crystal blue/teal Caribbean-like waters to the adorable tiny cobblestone roads, to the high-end shopping (very high-end) – the city was perfect.

We arrived by ferry from Napoli (Naples, Italy) where we got off the train from Rome early Sunday afternoon. As soon as you walk onto the island by ferry, you stroll through a bit of a chaotic touristy town — this is not the real Capri. A tiny red trolley brings you up a steep hill only to step off into the most dreamy little town. With breathtaking views of the sea and all it’s magic, the town has incredible character. No wonder people honeymoon here! With hundreds of tiny hidden streets with no car access leading us to shops like Prada, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Balenciaga, Miu Miu, Roberto Cavalli… the list continues… I was in heaven. Granted I can’t really afford to shop given my recent employment situation and travel plans, nor do I have the room to fit anything in my tiny suitcase, it was still cool to be amongst all the glitz and glamour.

Our boutique hotel sat right in the whimsical town overlooking the water. Being centrally located is very important to us! We had our own private balcony that looked straight to the water and was ideal to watch the birds. It was heaven.

 

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Sunday was our day to explore the hidden streets, which was so fun! It almost felt like we were honeymooning all over again! We had a bottle of wine and got to know the city. At night, we ate dinner at the coolest Mediterranean restaurant – E’ Divino. The ambiance was to die for. It was located on a hidden street that took us entirely too long to find, but as soon as we walked in to see the unique nostalgic haven, we knew it would be worth it. On entering you feel as though you are walking into a house. A house with a lot of character, might I add. You can choose to eat in the bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, or whichever room suits you! Mike and I sat in between the dining room and the bedroom. The food was simple, service not so great, but over all experience was unlike any other.

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On Monday we decided to do what we have been dying to do ever since we heard about it from our friends Tyler and Claire who honeymooned in Capri – and that was to see the infamous Blue Grotto! We hopped on a boat with a company called Laser Capri, where they give you a full tour around the entire island as well as bring you to the Blue Grotto. For any of you who don’t know what the Blue Grotto is… It’s this amazing sea cave right on the coast of Capri – when sunlight passes through its underwater cavity, sunbeams shine through the sea water, creating this beautiful neon blue reflection that illuminates the cavern. Once we arrived at the location of the Blue Grotto, we had to export from the large boat onto a tiny row boat that only fit Mike, me and our guide. We laid down in the tiny row boat and slid under an extremely small cavity, leading us into the illuminating blue space. It was unbelievable and I never wanted to leave!! But you can only stay in there for so long, so we took a couple pictures, soaked in its serenity, and slid right back out! It was indeed an unsurpassable experience. After the hype of the Blue Grotto, Mike and I took a hike along the coast to this huge natural arch that had formed hundreds of years ago. It was unreal. We ate lunch in a lovely outdoor garden, walked around, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner! We dined at an upscale Italian restaurant – Il Geranio – overlooking the water with views of the well known Faraglioni Rocks. It was magical.

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Tuesday was our final full day/night in Capri and we woke up to a down pouring rain storm. Lucky for us, the rain died down around noon and we took advantage of the time left that we had. We went on a rather challenging hike all the way down to the Faraglioni Rocks – I complained the entire hike down because it was so slippery from the rain and we forgot to bring water – but it was so incredibly worth it! Blown away by its beauty, we caught ourselves high-fiving in glory from making it down alive. The hike up, I complained even more. My husband is a saint. We ate lunch at what is supposedly the best pizza place on the island – Buca di Bacco – where we felt we deserved two pizzas and a few local beers after the slippery hike we just survived! Delicious and highly recommended! That night, we dined under romantic lemon trees in an actual lemon orchard at the most charming of places – Da Paolino Lemontrees. It was a fairy tale. All of the food was infused with lemon flavors and at the end of dinner, we were each given a lemon hand picked from the orchard! This was another fantastic recommendation given from our good friends Tyler and Claire. And we were so happy we went!

 

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And before I forget! The number one restaurant in all of Capri is actually a side deli that serves the most delicious gelato – it is where I spent a good chunk of my time in the order line – Buonocore Gelateria. I think this is what they serve in heaven 🙂

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Wednesday morning we boarded the ferry for Napoli, where we hopped on a train for Florence!

Until I share my stories of Florence, Bon voyage!

 

 

 

 

 

Trotting Through Europe for Three Months

I’m not one to plan trips… I leave the dirty work up to my husband, who actually does an excellent job! I feel as though, in a past life, he may have strangely been a luxurious travel agent… which would explain a lot! Needless to say, thanks to his exhaustive attention to detail, we have a pretty robust open-ended itinerary.

We want to keep an open mind as we travel. For example, if we end up meeting locals (which would be awesome!) who have stories and suggestions of places we never thought to visit, we would absolutely love to take that opportunity to move our plans around and explore those covert spots. So, although our plans are set (in an excel document), they could change depending on what goes on while we are there.

We have hotels booked in Rome and Capri, but after that, we are going to play it by ear. We decided to do our research and have a handy list of 3-5 hotels that we like in each of the cities we plan to visit. So if there is no availability in our first choice hotel, we can go to the next and so on. We also found while doing our research, that traveling through Europe between the months of April and July is actually a fantastic time to go. Most “back-packers” and summer tourists travel between the months of June and August. That said, finding a hotel shouldn’t be as hard in April and May… our only extremely busy month might be June. But who knows…We could be surprised!

Below is a helpful map we were provided with after purchasing our EuRail Passes (the train passes we bought to get us from city to city for the three months we are traveling around Europe). We may also be flying Ryanair (a super cheap European airline — for folk on a budget, like us!) depending on how far each destination is. These maps give us a great sense of direction in terms of how we are going to get from place to place.

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Below line lists what our open-ended itinerary looks like — for now, at least!

Italy

  • Rome
  • Capri
  • Tuscany Region
  • Florence
  • Pisa
  • Cinque Terre
  • Milan
  • Bellagio / Como
  • Padua
  • Venice

Austria

  • Salzburg
  • Vienna

Czech Republic

  • Prague
  • Karlovy Vary

Germany

  • Munich
  • Bavaria / Fussen
  • Berlin
  • Hamburg
  • Lubeck

Denmark

  • Copenhagen

Netherlands

  • Amsterdam

Belguim

  • Bruges

France

  • Paris

Switzerland

  • Geneva
  • Interlaken

France

  • Monaco
  • Cannes

Spain

  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Sevilla

Ireland

  • Dublin
  • Other undecided city… Open to suggestions!

England

  • London

And then back to the United States! 

Off we go to drink a lot of wine and eat lots of pasta in Italy! Wish us luck!!

Until next time, ciao!

PS. If you would like to see more sporadic photos from our adventures, follow my Instagram: jackieklein12 🙂