Paris

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Paris! I loved the City of Light more than I even expected to, and I was expecting to really love it! I guess I was most impressed with the beautiful architecture of the city and its fashionable residents. It was also easy to get around via the subway system and I felt like everyone was friendly and welcoming.

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Since Paris was our final stop, we splurged on a slightly nicer hotel in the Rue Cler district near the Eiffel Tower. I was so thrilled that we could see the Eiffel Tower from our room!

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We were hungry when we got in and could not resist trying the Bedford Ave Brooklyn Diner right on our hotel’s street. It was funny to be eating in a Brooklyn-themed restaurant, but the burgers were actually great. From there we headed straight to the Eiffel Tower to walk around its gardens. (And take too many photos.)

Louvre

We started our first full day in Paris at the Louvre. I have always dreamed of going to the Louvre. But I was also nervous. After being a little overwhelmed and disappointed by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, I was afraid the Louvre might make me feel the same way. Plus, everyone talks about the Louvre being way too big and hard to navigate. But I shouldn’t have worried. I LOVED the Louvre. I was so happy to be there.

happy at the Louvre

We spent about four hours wandering around the museum, from the Mona Lisa, to the French painters, to the Egyptian and Near East collections, to the Medieval moat. I wish I could have seen the Winged Victory, but it was out for conservation.

photographing in the Louvre

Thankfully, I didn’t really feel overwhelmed. The museum was crowded, but there was a lot more room for everyone to spread out, so I didn’t feel boxed in or overwhelmed. The entire complex was lovely and clean and easy to navigate. And ALL the BEST art! Did I mention I loved the Louvre?!

Angelina

After the Louvre, we headed to Angelina for hot chocolate. We’d heard the line for the famous cafe would be long, but we actually got to walk right in and be seated. We had a delicious lunch, plus the hot chocolate and their signature dessert. Yum!

arc de triomphe

Next we walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (with a stop at Fauchon for macarons) to the Arc de Triomphe.

view from the Arc de Triomphe

We climbed to the top and took in the panoramic views of the city. So amazing! (I took a few iPhone panorama shots like the one seen above.) After getting our fill of the city views, we went to a delicious and lovely dinner at Les Cocottes near our hotel… and then zzzzzZZZZZZ.

Versailles

Our second day in Paris turned out to be May Day, a major French holiday, which meant most sites were closed. It was also raining. Ick. But we tried to make the best of it. We took the train out to Versailles.

Versailles Gardens

The palace was closed but we were able to walk around the grounds and gardens, which were huge! We couldn’t help but compare Versailles to Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Both were gigantic, gilded, and beautiful.

Versailles gate

Before we left for our Europe trip, I booked one of our most touristy and most anticipated activities: Dinner at the Eiffel Tower! We felt a little dorky, the dinner was pricey, and the food wasn’t incredible, but we had a lot of fun. There was a diverse mix of diners at the restaurant (tourists from all over the world!) and the staff was very nice and accommodating.

night eiffel tower

After our relaxed two-hour dinner, we got to go out and explore the Tower. The restaurant was on the first level, but we were able to take the stairs up to the second level. It was after 11 pm and it sort of felt like we had the Tower to ourselves! We took a bunch of photos and then managed to buy two of the last elevator tickets to the very top. It was scary at the top of the Tower — so high! — but it was also magical. It was raining, but I didn’t mind. It was romantic to be up in the Tower at night with Travis. We even caught the final sparkling Eiffel Tower light show on our way back down the Tower. I loved it! So sparkly! Such a perfect night.

top of the eiffel tower

On our very final day in Paris, the very final full day of our European trip, we did a lot of strolling around the city. After a stop at the too-crowded Museum d’Orsay, we headed to lunch at the famous cafe, Les Deux Magots. It was charming sitting out on the covered patio watching the fashionable Parisians walk by. For dessert, Travis took me to Pierre Herme for absolutely delicious macarons and chocolates. Such a fancy, perfect shop!

Notre Dame

We continued on to Notre Dame. It was crowded as well, so we opted out of going inside. We wandered around outside the cathedral, avoided pick-pockets, took photos, and continued on to Île Saint-Louis for ice cream at Berthillon. I had the roasted pineapple and basil flavor. Very unique and good!

selfies with Notre Dame

We finally made our way back to the d’Orsay where the lines were a little shorter. We got inside just in time to do a sprint, one-hour viewing of the huge Impressionist museum. The converted train station building was impressive. We saw many Monets!

Museum d'Orsay

A little dinner near our hotel, and that was it for our grand European adventure! So much sight-seeing exhausted me. Travis and I had a lovely, romantic, fun, relaxing, exhilerating month traveling together and it was sad that our trip was over, but I was also tired and ready to get home to Crusher. Au revoir, Paris! I’d love to return and see more of the city someday!

au revoir

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We are STILL working on compiling our photo highlight album, but I did manage to put together a complete set of all of our Selfies of Europe. Check us out at all the major sights!

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Read Travis’ posts about Paris HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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Switzerland

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Prior to our trip, we had grand plans of traveling to the Berner Oberland in Switzerland and getting to the top of the Jungfrau… but we hadn’t totally looked into April weather in the high Alps. The temperature is still in the teens and they are still getting snow. We didn’t pack for those types of conditions, so we changed our plans to make a lower key (and lower altitude) stop in Lausanne, Switzerland.

We didn’t have much on our Swiss itinerary, just view the alps, eat fondue, and change out our Euros for a few Swiss Francs. Success on all fronts!!

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The weather was overcast and rainy, so I didn’t take many photos, but Lausanne was lovely, fancy, and sophisticated. Very quaint and clean, with an adorable subway system. The population of Lausanne is only 132,000 and it is one of the smallest cities in the world that has an underground subway system. They speak French in Lausanne, but German, Italian, and English are also common. We had a bit of trouble code-switching to French, even with our very limited set of conversational phrases. Travis is much better at languages than I am.

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Our hotel, Agora Swiss Night, was cool and modern. It had all kinds of fun Swiss details, like the cuckoo clocks seen above, plus fun rooms and pretty good interent.

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Because the weather was icky, we didn’t do too much in Lausanne. We only had one full day there and we spent it relaxing and eating. We went to a California-themed restaurant for lunch called the Luncheonette Cafe. We thought it was funny to be at an American restaurant, but more than that, we were craving vegetables. Eating in train stations makes you miss healthy food! We downed a giant salad and burrito quickly! It was exactly what we needed.

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For dinner we sought out the best, traditional fondue in the city. Travis found Pinte Besson, a 200+ year-old tavern with some of the best-rated fondue in town. We shared a cheese fondue and a sausage dish. It was HEAVY, but absolutely delicious.

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And other than mailing a few postcards, that was about it for our trip to Switzerland. Most of our Alps mountain views were seen from the train to and from Lausanne. I’d love to go back some day and actually hike in the higher Alps!

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Read Travis’ post about Switzerland HERE.

I love Lago di Como

Lago di Como

We booked our three-night stay in Varenna on Lake Como as a planned vacation from our vacation… and it worked out exactly as planned. We had a wonderful, relaxing time!

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We had originally planned to go to Cinque Terre instead of Lake Como, but it turned out to be an Italian holiday weekend and all of the hotels there were already booked. Usually, Lake Como wouldn’t have great weather this time of year (which means hotels were available) but we lucked out and had two perfect days of sun and amazing views.

Varenna, Italy

Varenna was definitely one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. It was quiet, with no tourist crowds, which had gotten very exhausting in the bigger cities. We stayed at a wonderful, small hotel in a room with our own terrace with stunning views of the lake and mountains. Plus, we had my favorite meals of the trip there at Restaurant La Vista.

La Vista octopus salad

14107056093_eed9cff719_bIf you are ever in Lake Como, you must go to La Vista! The food was amazing (the octopus salad was my favorite) and the staff were so very nice and welcoming. It was fancy, but totally comfortable. It is also located basically IN the water of Lake Como and has spectacular views. We ate inside on our first night and then went back on our third night in Varenna and sat on their terrace. It was so beautiful and fun! They bring out blankets for you when it gets cold after the sun goes down so that you can stay and take your time enjoying dessert. So cute! Travis and I joke that La Vista is now my most favorite restaurant in the world… but it isn’t really a joke. I think it is the truth! We had such wonderful, romantic, three-hour dinners there — it was perfect.

Lake Como sunset

Hitting up so many amazing, but crowded tourist sites all over Italy was tiring, and we knew we wanted to relax in Varenna, but we couldn’t pass up hiking in the Alps and checking out the local castle, Castello di Vezio. It was a very small castle compared to many we visited, but you could tell that it was cared for well. There was a falconry at the castle and they let the birds out for us to see. I fell in love with a cute, white owl. There was also a reptile exhibit, a sculpture garden, and strange chalk ghosts that are made each year and then slowly deteriorate. Odd, but definitely a really unique and special place. We had fun exploring the grounds.

Castello di Vezio

We continued hiking to find a nearby waterfall. It was very impressive. So loud and fast! The water was very cold since it was coming down from the Alps. It acted as a type of air conditioner and cooled the surrounding area. I drank some of the water out of a spout that was set up — it was refreshing! Then, we hiked back to town and bought lunch at the local farmer’s market. For dinner we had simple pizza and gelato. Then we turned in early and enjoyed our hotel room balcony.

Varenna, Lake Como

On our second full day we took the water ferry to Bellagio across the lake. It is a bigger town. It was more crowded, with more shops and restaurants. I liked Varenna better, so after some gelato and a rest at a water side cafe, we headed back “home.” We decided spur of the moment to go back to La Vista for dinner… and I am so glad we did! Such a great night!

ferry to Bellagio

Our entire stay in Varenna was relaxing and magical. I had been cranky while we were traveling there, but the beautiful views turned my mood around as soon as we got off the train. I had a wonderful time. I doubt it will actually happen, but we are already talking about returning someday…

Castello di Vezio

Funny Side Note: We relied heavily on Rick Steves’ guidebooks and therefore ended up surrounded by other tourists who did the same. We joked that whenever we heard someone speaking English, they were talking about Rick Steves… well, in Varenna we actually ran into one of his tour groups!! He wasn’t leading it, but it was definitely his program. We overheard a few couples talking about it at dinner… they had all been on multiple Rick Steves tours! Biggest revelation: Rick Steves’ son doesn’t wear a money belt!! The tour participants really though that was wild. haha!

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We are still working on uploading and organizing our insane amount of photos. I plan to curate a much more manageable “highlight reel,” but for now you can view them all in my Europe 2014 Flickr Album. Travis and I took more than 2,000 photos EACH. Gah!

Read Travis’ posts about Varenna HERE and HERE.

Florence

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Florence is a beautiful and elegant city. It might be the opposite of Naples. The population feels older, fancier, and more sophisticated. There are designer shops all over the city center, not to mention the amazing museums and churches!

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It had been a life long dream of mine to visit the Uffizi Gallery and to climb the dome of the Florence Duomo.

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On our first afternoon in Florence, we went straight to the Duomo. It is so beautiful, with its pastel colors and intricate decoration. The giant octagonal dome was higher and wider than any that had ever been built in the 15th century and it is still a marvel.

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I couldn’t wait to climb to the top of the dome! (We bought the expensive, but worthwhile, Firenze Cards and were able to skip the very long general ticket line.) The climb was long, with more than 400 steps in very narrow, slanting stairways, but it was thrilling!

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The view exceeded my expectations! It was amazing. The red tile roofs of Florence spread out all around us and we could see the green hills and even the Alps in the distance. Once again, we were blessed with perfect weather and a very clear day. I was so happy on top of the dome!

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On day two in Florence, our Firenze Cards once again saved us from the major line at the Uffizi Gallery, but it couldn’t save us from the crowds within the museum! Prior to visiting I thought the Uffizi might be my most favorite museum in the world, but instead I felt frustrated and overwhelmed inside. It was extremely crowded, hot, and it was difficult to find/see all of the masterpieces. Also, no photos inside the Uffizi. Boo!

Despite the crowds, it WAS lovely to see so many Renaissance paintings. I especially loved the Raphaels, like this Madonna of the Goldfinch. But I didn’t spend as much time in the Uffizi as I expected.

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We also went to the Academia to check out Michelangelo’s David. It is huge! Seventeen feet tall! You weren’t allowed to take photos, but I snuck a quick one. There were big crowds at the Academia as well, but the Firenze Card allowed us to get in quickly. The David is so large it is easy to appreciate it even while surrounded by hundreds of other viewers.

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It was fun to just stroll around Florence. I loved crossing over the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River. We grabbed sandwiches three times from I Due Fratellini, a little sandwich and wine stand near the Duomo. They were so quick and tasty. We also loved our dinner at Trattoria 4 Leoni and gelato from Gelateria Vivaldi. So good!

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Overall, Florence was lovely, but I think I was overwhelmed by the tourist crowds and I don’t know if I totally absorbed it all or explored it to its fullest extent in only two days. Oh well, I will just have to return!

Read Travis’ posts about Florence HERE and HERE.

Eiffel Tower – wow!

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We made it to Paris! Our final travel destination.

I’m still working on my blog posts about Florence, Lake Como, and Switzerland, but I just couldn’t wait to share these quick photos of the Eiffel Tower as seen from our hotel room.

It is so exciting to be here! (Even if we are a little exhausted from all the travel.)

Naples

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Wow. What to say about Naples?? I’ve always wanted to experience New York City in the 1970s and I think Naples may have given me a taste of that world… crowds, chaos, graffiti, and an exciting, authentic atmosphere.

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Rick Steves warned us: “Naples is Italy in the extreme. If you like Italy as far south as Rome, go further south. It just gets better. If Italy is getting a little overwhelming by the time you get down to Rome, think twice about going further. Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper.”

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But we wanted to go in search of truly original pizza and some ocean coast line… so on Monday we took a day trip to Naples!

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Crowds, vendors, and Vespas meet you as you exit the Naples train station. We pushed through it all and went straight to our well-researched pizza stop: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele! There was already a line/group outside waiting to be seated. We grabbed a number and join the group. The wait wasn’t terrible and we got seated next to two local Naples guys. We chatted as much as our broken Italian and English allowed. They were really nice. They had visited NYC and LOVED it. Said it was “so beautiful.” They want to go to Miami next.

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Supposedly, pizza was invented in Naples, and the thin crust, tomato, mozzarella, basil creations we got at da Michele were indeed perfect. The sauce was the best part. Maybe the crust was the best part… I’m not sure. It was simply delicious and one person can pretty easily finish a whole pie. Yum!

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We did NOT go visit Pompeii, as it would have taken up most of the day. I’d heard that most of the best treasures from Pompeii were in the National Archeological Museum in Naples anyway, so I was excited to check it out.

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I guess I have been spoiled by so many excellent museums, the Archeological Museum felt a little deserted and sort of sparse. It was a bit run down and mostly had hall after hall of similar Roman statues, with little interpretation. The Pompeii mosaics, artifacts, and “secret” room were definitely the highlights.

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My favorite Naples site was the 100-year-old Galleria Umberto I shopping center. It was beautiful and utterly bizarre. The shops within the open air structure were almost entirely abandoned and there were knockoff handbag vendors camped out all over the mosaic plaza. It felt post-apocalyptic and totally fascinating.

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On our way to find the coast, we stopped in one of the most touristy Naples spots, Gran Caffé Gambrinus, for one of their signature Neapolitan pastries called sfogliatella — a crispy pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese. It was similar to the museum in that I think it had seen some better days, but it was still bustling and it was a good place to take a little break.

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There weren’t any true beaches within walking distance of central Naples, so we settled for taking some photos with Mount Vesuvius in the background. We wandered around, took in the cramped neighborhood scenes, and eventually made our way back to the train station.

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Naples was definitely an exciting and enlightening experience and I am so glad we went… but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a lengthy vacation visit.

Read Travis’ post on Naples HERE.

Rome

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Of all the cities we have visited so far, Rome probably got the least amount of our quality planning and sight-seeing attention. I was still a little sick in Rome and after touring the Vatican for many hours on Saturday, I didn’t feel up to more lengthy museum time.

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Saturday evening we did manage to go out for our own short walking tour. We saw the Trevi Fountain, which was really amazing, pretty, and impressive. It was packed with tourists and vendors, but we managed to get close and throw in a few coins. Fun!

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Next we walked over to the Spanish Steps. It started to rain, so we forced ourselves to go inside for a (pricey!) gelato break. Then decided to go out and hike the steps in the rain since they were deserted. We snapped our usual selfie and then headed back to our hotel near the Borghese Gardens and the US Embassy.

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We had booked a catacombs tour for Easter Sunday. I had been surprised that it was still offered on that day, so I was not shocked when it was cancelled. I really wanted to pretend to be Indiana Jones while exploring the catacombs, but the cancellation gave us more time to explore the other ancient sites of Rome on our own timetable.

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We headed first for the Pantheon. What an amazing structure! It is free to enter the Pantheon and it wasn’t terribly crowded once we got past the entrance. The dome truly is a marvel. It was beautiful to see the light shining in through the open oculus. I took a lot of photos, but it was hard to capture the Pantheon’s true size. The temple/church has been in continuous use for 2000 years! Wow.

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Next we head over to the “big” Rome attractions: the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

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We didn’t buy tickets to go inside either site, but we spent a lot of time wandering around and taking it all in. Since it was Easter, there were big crowds. There were also giant screens throughout the public areas projecting the Easter service from the Vatican. It definitely felt like a holiday atmosphere.

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I was tired in Rome and pretty much over the crowded big city tourist scene, but I am glad that we saw the major sights… while also managing to rest a bit. Constant sight-seeing is not sustainable for four straight weeks!

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Read Travis’ post about Rome and view his photos HERE and HERE.

My blogging is a bit behind. Right now Travis and I are in Switzerland. We have one more week of the trip. I am REALLY missing home and Crusher, but I’m looking forward to Paris!

Vatican City – a country of art

You guys. A month is a long time! I am starting to get a little travel fatigued… but we press on!

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Our stay in Rome started with a guided tour of Vatican City. The Vatican is its own separate country, an absolute monarchy with the Pope in charge! I am glad we did the tour. The complex is huge and it was so crowded with Easter visitors that we never would have been able to see anything on our own.

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We started in the Vatican Museum, saw a little bit of ancient and contemporary art, stopped in a few courtyards, then passed through the Raphael Rooms (seen below). Raphael was working in the Vatican at the same time that Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel. Speaking of, we went to see the Chapel next.

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I was very excited to see the Sistine Chapel after studying it in school and seeing it reproduced so many times in pop culture… it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It was definitely impressive, but the ceiling is so tall that it is almost hard to see the frescos. It is also very jumbled and complex, with hundreds of Michelangelo’s figures acting out dozens of bible scenes. I liked the Adam and Eve panel best, and of course The Creation of Adam. (NOT seen below. Below is a photo from the room dedicated to the dogma of the Virgin Mary.)

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Very, very cool to see, but not an entirely pleasant experience. It was so crowded that we were shoulder to shoulder with people the whole time getting shoved around. You weren’t allowed to take photos or to talk, and Vatican officials were sternly commanding silence the whole time over a speaker system. Plus, we had to move through the room fairly quickly… so it was all a bit overwhelming.

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Next we moved on to St. Peter’s Basilica. It is huge. The largest Christian church in the world. Even while inside of it, I don’t think we could even really asses its size accurately. The alter canopy created by Bernini is over 98 feet tall and may be the largest piece of bronze in the world.

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My very favorite piece of art we saw at the Vatican was Michelangelo’s Pieta. It has always been a favorite of mine and it was wonderful to see it in person. It is so beautiful and full of emotion. (Of course, it was still terribly crowded in the Basilica and everyone was shoving each other out of the way to view it… but still, very cool.)

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After the Basilica, we walked out onto the plaza where the Pope does his weekly audiences. They were setting up for the Easter service the next day. (You must get tickets to that service up to a year in advance by contacting your Bishop, fyi.) We took lots of pics and then headed to the Vatican Post Office to send some postcards. They print their own stamps at the Vatican!!

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Seeing Vatican City was definitely on my Europe wish list and I am so glad we got such a great tour and overview.

Read Travis’ thoughts on The Vatican HERE.

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happy in venice

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Venice is crowded and touristy, but if you go in accepting that fact, you can still enjoy it as the unique and magical place that it is.

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There actually IS a Disney Store in Venice, but otherwise, it has not been totally Disney-fied or perfected for tourists. There are lots of souvenier shops and plenty of touristy restaurants, but they aren’t huge chains or American imports. And even if the crowds and cheap trinkets turn you off, if you focus on the architecture and the history, there is still an unlimited amount of cool stuff to see. I love old buildings, and they don’t get much more unique than in Venice, with its Eastern and Western influences and long, rich history.

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I had been to Venice once before in 2007, but I was excited to share it with Travis. We took the night train from Vienna to Venice (it was a very small sleeper car, but we both slept ok in the pull-out beds) and were a little tired and bedraggled when we arrived, but it didn’t prevent us from wandering around the city snapping photos.

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Once we could finally check into our hotel, we cleaned up and went out (across the romantic Rialto Bridge) for an awesome dinner of cicchetti and spritzes. I had so much fun!

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On Day 2, we took a boat ride out to the small islands of Burano and Murano. We were blessed with amazing weather. The photos from Burano look almost fake, with the colorful houses and clear blue sky. We had a wonderful time wandering around there. Murano was less colorful, but just as picturesque. We ate fried seafood, bought me a Murano glass ring, and took lots of photos!

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On Day 3, we wandered around some less touristy neighborhoods, finding lunch and gelato along the way. Then we went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, which had a LOT of surrealism in its collection. Surrealism is not exactly my favorite, but the museum itself was absolutely lovely with a perfect sculpture garden. Later, we wandered back to Piazza San Marco to sit at a cafe and people watch. Another really delightful day… but nothing can last forever…

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Traveling is amazing and fun, but it can also be difficult and exhausting. I think the two weeks of traveling and constant sight seeing caught up with me, and I started to get sick on our third day in Venice! Really sick. No!

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We tried to go to bed early, but I was still very sick the next morning when we went on a guided tour of St. Mark’s Basilica. Despite my stuffy, pounding head, it was incredible to see inside the church.

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In the past, each merchant who came to Venice was required to bring something with which to decorate the church, so it is a jumbled collage of all sorts of marble, mosaics, and statues. We got to see the famous bronze Roman horses and walk along the second level balcony and look onto onto the Piazza. So cool! But I was so sick.

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After the tour, Travis basically dragged me to the train station and I slept for the rest of our journey to Rome…

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Travis and I have been taking a LOT of photos. You can see all of mine in my Europe 2014 album on Flickr. Even though I am a bit behind on my uploading, there are still PLENTY of photos to view.

Read Travis’ posts on Venice and see lots more photos HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Vienna: marathon + friends + imperial treasure

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Wow. Vienna was very impressive. We made a stop in the Austrian city mostly to meet up with friends and so Travis could run the Vienna City Marathon. I hadn’t totally planned all of our sight-seeing in advance, but it didn’t matter. There is way more to see than we could ever have fit in! I think we did a good job hitting some highlights and getting a feel for the city…

Day 1: Naschmarkt, Marathon Expo, Prater, Schönbrunn Palace

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We were staying with our friends at an AirBnB apartment near the Naschmrkt, a great place to pick up fruit, snacks, and breakfast. There was so much beautiful produce and great Turkish candies and snacks!

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After a morning market stop, Travis and I headed to the marathon expo, which just happened to be near the Prater. The Prater is an amusement park a lot like Coney Island, but a bit nicer. We couldn’t resist riding the giant Ferris Wheel and getting a cheese sausage for the road.

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In the afternoon we headed out to the Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Hapsburg emperors. It is hard to capture how huge the palace and grounds are in photos.

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We took a tour of the inside and walked around the grounds some. The inside was very gilded and mirrored. We got to view 40 different palace rooms and listen to an audio guide, but the history of the Hapsburg family was hard to follow. So many generations of rulers! I need to get a book on the topic…

Since it was marathon eve for Travis we tried not to stay on our feet for too long, but we probably still over-did it. Schönbrunn Palace was just such an enormous complex!

Day 2: Marathon

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Quite a few of our friends from Brooklyn came to Vienna to run the marathon. (Amanda, Joel, Kris, James, Travis, and Jon, seen above. Plus, Alison and Gabriella!) They all had great, fast races, including Travis. I was very impressed.

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I stayed out on the course all day (shivering in the rain) to cheer and try to take photos, but it was hard! I missed a bunch of friends and didn’t take many good photos at all, but I did get to see Travis in two different spots. He had a fun race and basically tied his previous PR.

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Travis and I rested after the race (and did a bit of work, laundry, and blogging) and then went out for dinner to celebrate with our friends. It was so much fun to have some quality time with familiar Brooklyn (and London!) peeps in the middle of our trip.

Day 3: Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Sacher Torte, Imperial Crypt & Imperial Treasury

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We have been doing a really good job checking off almost all of our sight seeing wish list so far on this trip… and I wanted our success to continue. But a week of European traveling (plus a marathon day!) seemed to have sapped some of our energy reserves… but we pressed on!

In the morning we stored our bags at the train station and then went to check out St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Thanks to unused tickets from our friends (thanks Joel & Amanda!) we got to go see the church treasury. Wow. So weird. So many relics (think thorns from the real crown of thorns, saints’ blood and bones, etc) and fascinating, bejeweled monstrances. It was hard for me to wrap my head around all of the religious artifacts…

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After the cathedral, we took a break at Hotel Sacher to try their famous chocolate torte and some traditional apple strudel. The torte was a little dry, but delicious, and Travis loved the strudel. I mostly loved my cafe latte. Yum.

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Next stop was the imperial crypt. We had seen the crypt on a Rick Steves’ episode and thought it would be interesting to see in person. It was a bit spooky, but also fascinating to see all of the death and skeleton iconography. It was also sad to see so many coffins for young babies and children. Overall, sort of a sad stop and maybe not a “must see” in Vienna, but it was interesting.

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After the crypt, we headed to the main Hofburg Palace complex to check out the Imperial Treasury. Wow. I didn’t realize how vast the treasure collection would be! We explored room after room filled with jewelry, crowns (including my favorite, the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor seen above), vestments, relics, and unicorn horns….

austria_unicorn

You guys, I have something to admit. I thought narwhals existed in the same fantasy realm as unicorns. I did not know they were real! So I was quite confused by this display described as “a giant narwhal tooth which was thought to be the horn of a unicorn.” I thought both animals were mythical! Thank goodness for wikipedia… I learn something new everyday!

There was more and more to see in the treasury, not to mention the entire rest of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, but I was getting much too tired and hungry. The trip caught up to me and I crashed hard. We got some easy dinner and then said goodbye to Vienna…

Then, we boarded the night train to Venice…

austria_train

Read Travis’ posts about Vienna HERE, HERE, and HERE.