Wanderlust 2017: Jewel Box

We were heading back to Germany and I was extremely excited. At this point, I was loving my trip. I thought to myself about how I could easily travel forever – and would love to any day.

Our next destination was Berlin, but first, we were going to take a couple hour break in Dresden, Germany. Similar to the stops in Siena and the Tyrol Region, we had enough time to walk around the city at a fast pace and grab a bite to eat.

So, we obviously ate. We were hours out from Berlin and traveling makes you hungry (literally and figuratively).

But then we saw some sites in the historical city. According to Wikipedia (we didn’t have a tour guide and honestly, this was a city I had never heard of since I never paid attention in history class…oops), Dresden is the capital city of the royal residence for Electors and Kings of Saxoy. The city is known as the Jewel Box because of baroque and rococo city centre – something I can honestly say is gorgeous. Dresden was bombed near the end of World War II and 25,000 people died – mainly civilians.

Here are some pictures from the city – genieBen!

 

Wanderlust 2017: Romeo, Take Me Somewhere We Can Be Alone

While leaving Venice, we took a two hour break in the beautiful city of Verona, Italy. Verona is exactly the type of city I would want to live in. It’s small, there’s a good amount of shade and sunshine, it’s not too busy, but at the same time, it has everything you could ever need.

We took a quick walking tour past the Arena di Verona, which was a Roman amphitheater built in the first century. Soon, we arrived at the Piazza Bra Square herbs water fountain park and the shops of Verona. When I saw how quiet and quaint this little town was, I fell in love.

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We then ended up at Juliet’s Home. Stories say that if you touch her right breast, you will be lucky with love. I won’t lie, I totally felt her up with no shame. There’s no harm in looking out for yourself.

After visiting Juliet’s home, I strolled through the streets of Verona and saw some beautiful architecture. The trip was very short, but I loved the energy, literary history, and scenery. In hindsight, I should have grabbed a glass of Pinot Noir while sitting at Piazza Bra Square – then again, it was 10AM. I think that would’ve made Verona perfect.

I wish we could have stayed for at least 24 hours to see more of the area – possibly even longer. I have found that Northern Italy is more my speed and I plan on coming back to spend some time in the Alps region.

Wanderlust 2017: Veni, Vidi, Vici, Venice

After leaving Florence and Cinque Terre, we knew that we were going to one of the most iconic locations in Italy: Venice! Our time in Venice was short and jammed packed with things to do.

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The City

To get to the city of Venice, you must take a water taxi, which if you ask me was a lot of fun. Any time I get a chance to be out on the water, I genuinely enjoy myself. When you dock, you see this beautiful city highlighted by bodies of water.

 

We walked through Piazza San Marco to the gorgeous Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco.

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The cathedral is one of the most famous examples of Italo-Byzanine architecture, and I can honestly say, has some of the most beautiful architecture on the exterior and gorgeous paintings in the interior. We did a quick tour of the church, where unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos, walked around the piazza, stared at the clock tower, and still couldn’t believe that this little island in Northern Italy existed – it was something out of a fairy tale.

The Canals

The canals are everywhere and there is not getting away from them – not that you want to. Every street has a bridge or has a dead end where the canals flow.

We had the opportunity to take a gondola ride around the Venetian canals. Getting on the Gondola, you feel as if you’re going to eat it and fall into the gross water (yes, I said it, the canal water is totally disgusting). Luckily, the drivers know how to distribute weight properly when everyone gets on the boat.

The ride was fun, but mildly underwhelming. It took about 20 minutes, they didn’t sing to us, and it kind of felt as if we were going in circles. Going under the bridges next to the tight-knit neighborhoods was interesting, but not exactly how I imagined it would be.

Would I do this again? Probably not, but I recommend doing it once to say you did it.

The Vineyard

This was hands down my favorite part of our trip to Venice. We drove out to the middle of the country to Vignaluna Vineyards. This is a family-owned vineyard that produces delicious wine manually. What does that mean? No big machines – no mass production – no unnecessarily added chemicals.

We took a quick tour of the vineyard, then we headed inside for wine tasting and dinner.

We tested five wines: a Prosecco, Moscato, Rosato, Chardonnay, and Raboso, all of which were amazing. My favorite was definitely the Prosecco, but that’s not much of a surprise.

Food was constantly being shoved down our throats as we tested the wine; everything was made fresh in the kitchen by one of the family members. You can see here, once again, my love for pasta:

Well, that’s it folks. The second to last stop in Italy has been documented (Verona will be last) and soon I will tell the tales of when we moved north through Germany, the Czech Republic, The Netherlands, France, and Spain! Ciao!

Wanderlust 2017: Tuscan Leather Smelling Like a Brick

Yes, once again, more Drake lyrics. I can’t be tamed…

After leaving Rome, I was ready for a smaller city, and Florence, Italy was the perfect solution. We had three days slated to be in Florence and I was going to take full advantage of this city. I had heard a lot about Florence because a lot of people I studied with at Marist College spent a semester abroad there, but I had no idea it would a place where I wish I had done the same.

THE CITY

Busy, busy, busy, but beautiful. When I say busy, I in no way am comparing it to Rome. It felt busy because there was always something going on. There were always people looking around at the beautiful architecture, statues, painting, small streets, and shops. The city buzzed at all hours.

And it was hot. Luckily, there are enough shaded areas, but when in the direct sunlight, you start to feel the burn.

My favorite part of the city was definitely Piazza della Signoria. There, you can find the Loggia dei Lanzi where a replica of Michaelangelo’s David, a statue of Perseus and the Head of Medusa, and many other mythical and historical figures are displayed. When you walk down the Uffizi Gallery towards the river, there are statues of the most important philosophical, mathematical, social, and governmental figures to have made an impact on Italy.

And the river! Oh my. Talk about a beautiful view. We walked over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, which was the only bridge to not be destroyed during World War II. When you look down upon the Arno River and the quay, you see a couple restaurants that have been built in to the hills along the river, with outdoor areas where people were enjoying life.

This city is where you start to see the true relaxed European culture that’s mentioned when people return from a trip abroad. It’s quite inspiring, if I do say so. We as American are constantly on the go, driven by money and status, and we so often forget that life is so much more than climbing the financial ladder. This is definitely one of my favorite parts of this trip – people don’t take themselves too seriously (for the most part).

THE FOOD

As previously mentioned in my post about Rome, I went hard in the paint eating pasta, pasta, pasta! I tried a carbonara that was perfectly al dente and out of this world – I’m day dreaming about it now.

My favorite place to get my grub on was the Mercato Centrale food and goods market. On my “Treat Yo’ Self” night, I enjoyed a nice glass of wine, a big ole steak, and a tiramisu that was out of this world. I’m a huge Delmonico’s tiramisu fan and it put it to shame (so much so that I texted my mother about how we had been living a lie).

Finally, the pizza was delicious. Their personal pizzas were basically the size of the average eight-cut from the US, sans NYC. I tried a few different kinds, but mainly with proscuitto as a topper. Cured meat is EVERYWHERE in Italy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

THE HOSTEL

We stayed at the Plus Florence CB Hostel. The place had a pool, bar, rooftop, restaurant, laundry, and good sized rooms. Since the inception of our trip, this was the best place we had stayed. This place was so great that I plan on using Plus hostels on my future European Adventures.

After three days in Florence, I was sad to leave, but also extremely excited to continue our trek to Northern Italy. If you have a chance to see Florence, go for it; splurge! The city is wonderful and you’ll love the culture. Caio!

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Wanderlust 2017: She Dreamed of Paros, Paros, Paro-dise

Yes, that is a play on Coldplay’s “Paradise“.  I know it’s weird that it’s not a Drake song, but y’all will get over it. Fun fact: I was listening to “Paradise” when I decided to make some moves with my life, so it’s only fair that I give it a shout out. Anyway…

The Cyclades Islands were a dream. We took a four and a half hour beautiful ferry ride across the Mediterranean Sea from Athens to the island of Paros (don’t worry, my post on Athens is coming soon!). Paros was exactly what I imagined Greece to be…but even more stunning. No picture could truly portray its beautiful.

We quickly dropped our bags off at the hotel, then went straight to the beach for lunch and drinks. I have never seen water so crystal clear; so perfect – not to mention, it was nice and warm.

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We first ate freshly caught fish with feta, tzatziki, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pork. I was in heaven. We then grabbed drinks and enjoyed the sun and the sea.

Over the next two days, we toured all of Paros, including Naxos. The people were extremely friendly, the shops were beautiful, the food was fresh, and the bars were fun – what else could you possibly need?

On our last day in the Greek Islands, we went on a booze and BBQ boat ride around the islands. This was hands down the most amazing thing I have experienced. We started with climbing a huge rock/cliff in the middle of the sea where an abandoned church had been built. I was terrified but so proud of myself for going outside my comfort zone.

The next stop, we swam through caverns. The second we entered into the first cavern, all I could think about was the scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, where Dumbledore and Harry go into a cavern to find one of the horcruxes. Naturally, my mind went a little wild and I scared myself a bit – imagine if one of those zombie-esq creatures that crawled out of the water dragged me under!! Obviously, I was being dramatic and went back to enjoying the beautifully clear turquoise water. It was incredible and at the same time, this is when I felt as if our group of 30 people started to really bond.

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This was taken in Paros, but, you know, we cute 😉

After that, we went to a small beach on Antiparos and the boat crew barbecued chicken and pork kebabs, made fresh Greek salad, and gave us lots of wine. It was the definition of paradise. I wanted to be left there forever.

We had to eventually head back to Paros. We were all sad, but exhausted from the perfect weather, swimming, wine, and overall excitement. It was very clear, the Greek Islands were the best part of Greece. We are all talking about going back already, but trust me when I tell you, I WILL BE BACK SOONER THAN YOU THINK!

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P.S., this is my hysterically entertaining roomie on my trip, Lynn. She’s pretty rad. Y’all should follow her on Instagram: @lynni_cha